I never noticed it until this last year. I’d been aware, in the back of my mind, that it was there, perhaps. But it wasn’t until this last year that I realised what was happening. There is a feeling when being surrounded by books. It sort of, very politely, comes and stands next to you and puts a comforting arm around your shoulder. Maybe even a little squeeze. You don’t even have to pick one up (although that helps), just be around them. The more, of course, the better.
It’s a comforting feeling. A calming feeling. Reassuring. Solid, too. Relaxing, of course. A smile when you enter the room, with candlelight shining in its eyes.
I’ve suffered with anxiety this past year, in a way I never have before. Books, in their Bookish way, have helped me immensely just by being around. When it’s been op much and I’ve needed to find some measure of calm, I’ve sat and reorganised my bookshelves, flipping softly through the pages and touching at random words, allowing the scent to soothe.
It turns out I’m not the only one who does this, or who has found it helpful in times of stress. The simple act of being around shelves of books has helped a number of people suffering from mild anxiety and depression. A little bit of magic on the shelves, don’t you think?
Perhaps it’s that within each cover there are endless possibilities that have a certainty too them. There is – in their ways – endings to books. Most discuss the overcoming of conflict or hardship. Studies have famously proven that reading improves empathy – key to human development and useful to improve mental health. Reading, I think us bookworms would agree, is very much an experience rather than just something we do. But it’s an experience that can be managed and controlled when our lives feel pretty uncontrollable and unmanageable.
Maybe I’m putting too much on the esoteric nature of books. A little sentimental? But it works for me. And maybe it works for you too.
So, if you’re having a bad day and need to de-stress a bit, try reorganising the shelves, spend some time with paper-made friends old and new, and I hope you feel better for it.