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Five ways books build resilience by Nicola Morgan

Five ways books build resilience by Nicola Morgan

July 1st 2021

You and I take it for granted that books do wonderful things for readers. We should never take things for granted. When people ask, “What exactly is so great about books?” we need an answer that will send them eagerly to bookshops and libraries to see for themselves!

Since Be Resilient is my latest title I’ll link the question to resilience but I’ve also talked about how books help with stress, sleep, friendships and all the other elements of wellbeing.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back. It’s not about not being knocked down but learning to get up after being knocked down. It’s also about not worrying too much about future setbacks but living life to the full in the calms between the storms.


Here are my Five Ways Books Build Resilience.


  1. Books give breathing space

When we’re dealing with something bad, we need time to recover. Burying yourself in a book helps that. Reading for pleasure lowers heart rate and stress levels. That pause, whether it’s for half an hour or three hours, or a bedtime reading session every evening, gives mind and body that chance. You might think going online would do that but it rarely lowers heart rate. Usually the opposite.


  1. Books provide role models for challenges

In stories, we see characters dealing with a challenge, failing at first, trying again and eventually succeeding. The same applies in both true and fictional stories: it’s almost always about overcoming problems.

The act of reading about another person puts our mind in a state called “narrative transportation”, where we take on some of the character’s emotions. This uses areas of the brain involved in self-knowledge, emotion and personal memory. The stories become part of us and in turn part of how we will deal with problems ourselves.

This is not to say we will imitate what we read. We learn from the mistakes of others as well as their successes. The more we read, the better we can judge.


  1. They show us we’re not alone

In Be Resilient I talk about the importance of knowing your team, your support network. When you read about someone like you, that’s someone new to identify with, a hero who can help you even without knowing you.


  1. They build knowledge

In Be Resilient I also talk about building skills and knowledge to boost your confidence, a vital ingredient for courage and resilience. Books self-evidently grow knowledge – the more you read, the more you know; the more you know, the better equipped you are to deal with whatever life throws.


  1. And some even take us by the hand

Finally, of course, there are books that explicitly build resilience. Step forward, Be Resilient! It takes the reader gently by the hand and shows them that they can do more than they think, better than they fear, as much as they need. Be Resilient aims to give readers that strength so that by the end no one needs to hold their hand. They can sail their own ship confidently across the sea, equipped for storms but equally ready to enjoy the sunshine on the most beautiful days of their lives.


Nicola Morgan, The Teenage Brain Woman, is a multi-award-winning author whose work on young brains, psychology and mental health is loved by teenagers, schools and families around the world. Be Resilient was sparked by two things: the COVID-19 pandemic and a personal loss a few months earlier. But the research and knowledge were already there – this book just brings it all together to help young people build themselves a strong future.


Nicola does talks, online or in-person, for conferences, schools, parents and public audiences. Check out her popular webinars – details on her website.  She has created unique teaching materials, including videos: terrific value for schools, bringing all the benefits of repeated visits at a fraction of the cost of one!


Be Resilient is out now.

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