Now is the Time to Read – The Importance of Narratives During Social Isolation

Sarah Colbert, Op-Ed Assistant Page Editor

During times of such uncertainty and stress, one of the best ways to relax that many have found, even if just momentarily, is to read. Whether as a distraction or an escape, reading has been known to relieve stress. Just as exercise is important for our physical health, the stimulation that reading provides is important for mental health. There has never been a time this has rung more true than during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

When forced to stay at home for long periods of time, people resort to their devices much more. While some amount of that is fine, scrolling through social media endlessly only passively engages your mind rather than actively engaging it. Problems begin when the majority of your mind’s engagement is passive. Reading narratives, among other things, actively engages and stimulates your mind in a way that nothing and nobody has recreated in the same way yet. As stated in The Scroll, “Reading is a workout for the brain. And just as physical exercise decreases the risk of diabetes and heart disease, regular reading decreases the risk of conditions such as dementia, and improves memory, concentration, and mood. This is especially relevant in these times of Covid.” Some have even prescribed books as therapy.

With all the different genres available, most people can find something to read that appeals to them. For many, avoiding the news these days is a choice to reduce stress. Narratives in particular give you a unique perspective on things and in some cases, can allow you to relate to what you’re going through, which can give people hope. When interviewed, one of our English teachers, Mrs. Ramirez, stated how “Stories are work, but they’re reflective, introspective.” She says how when she reads a story, she’s thinking about “how it relates to [her], how it makes [her] reflect on humanity.” She explains that “There’s this need to understand, but doing it through story has been a lot more enjoyable, and allowed [her] to connect a lot more than reading the news.” 

In times of such unprecedented stress when we are socially isolated, the ability to relate to characters in a narrative can provide much needed connection and comfort. 

Along with many other benefits, narratives provide you with an escape by taking you to a whole new place, which helps to strengthen your mental health. According to The Atlantic, “Reading can be therapeutic. In fact, it might be the best antidote for the psychological toll of a socially distanced life.” No matter what type of narrative you read, or anything else you read for that matter, you have the ability just to travel without leaving your house for as long as you may choose. During quarantine, such narratives can be crucial. 

Nicole DeRobertis, LCSW, a youth and adolescent psychologist, expresses how, “Reading fiction is such a great escape.” She says how “it allows [her] to imagine being the character, visiting new places and having different adventures and experiences. Depending on what you’re reading it can be something that helps people make sense of the circumstances or a great distraction/escape.” 

I have found the same thing to be true myself. We may be limited in where we can physically go right now, but with books, the possibilities are limitless.