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How Reading Romance Helped My Mental Health

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Everyone who knows me knows how important reading is to me. Right from when I was a child, books have been a close companion. Books are to be thanked to a large extent, for everything that I am or am not today. Like almost every reader, I started with Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew, Carolyn Keene, Agatha Christie etc. As a young adult, I moved on to Sidney Sheldon, Shakespeare, Mills & Boon and the likes. Since then I have read hundreds of books in diverse genres with mystery/thrillers and contemporary fiction topping my list of favorite genres. As much as I enjoyed reading romance when I was younger, as an adult I was not quite fond of the genre.

Why? Well, I am a realist and as I grew I understood the concept of love better. Having been in love more than a couple of times, I knew that love is not straightforward. It is not always roses and butterflies. Having had my heart broken a few times made me realize that there is a side to love that no one speaks about. Don't get me wrong, I'm a sucker for love and I love everything about love. Random love stories on social media melt my heart and I confess I am vested in the relationships of some celebrities as well. So well, yeah, I love love. When it comes to romantic novels, I felt that there wasn't much reality in them. Boy meets girl, then comes in a third person, there is ample candy floss romance and sex and more often than not a happy ending. No pun intended. There was hardly any character development or realistic scenarios. This put me off.

Also, reading many books on other genres put romance on the back burner. I have more unread books on my shelf than read books, and more often than not I reached out to the non-romance ones. Even non-fiction, which was a complete no-no for me, made it to my reading list, but romance stayed put. When I read multiple heavy reads back to back, it affected my mental space to a large extent. While I did not want to take a break from reading, I also did not want to read something that would mess with my mind. When Sruthi, a dear friend from bookstagram (follow her now, she's amazing!) suggested I give romance a shot, I really thought hard and finally gave in. Boy, was I glad I did!

Romance has involved so much since I read them last. I'll talk about the books I read in a while, first let me take this opportunity to talk about their brilliance. The stories are more realistic now, the character development is super strong and the flow of the story is very in-time and paced well. These books are a breath of fresh air and they are perfect to balance your mental space. They do come with their share of unrealistic expectations at times, but that stopped affecting me years ago. I found it surprising that I could relate to these characters so well and I was consumed by the story without being affected by it. I hope that sentence makes sense. When you have known love, you know that it comes with a lot of tags attached to it. Savior being one too. 

Reading these stories saved me in so many ways. The second wave has not been easy and the situation has been quite gloomy. I've been reading a lot this year and most of my reads have been heavy and emotionally taxing. Losing my bookstagram account affected me too. Add this to the current situation and I wasn't in a right frame of mind at all. I focus a lot on my physical health and mental well being, so this threw me off the grid. Reading is a hobby and I had way too many books in hand. There is no way that I would have gone without reading. These romance books were the perfect answer. They took me to a world of their own. A world where everything is perfect and yet flawed. It was refreshing to read stories without an element of surprise or the mention of war and its effects. These stories released more happy hormones in my system and made me feel better instantly. Thank to this, I have now decided to read at least one love story every month.

This is how reading romance helped my mental health:

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~ The perfect break from the monotony of life. Took me into a completely new setting.

~ Love stories more often than not have happy endings, so reduced anxiety on that front.

~ These stories are not too short and not too long, they are the right dose. That perfect burst of joy you need.

~ As much as emotions are complex, love stories done right make it easy to read them without feeling heavy. They make you feel light headed.

~ At a time when I had nothing to look forward to during the pandemic, these stories gave me something. I was vested in these relationships and I couldn't wait to read what would happen next.

~ These stories are sometimes realistic, sometimes not. It made me realize that I can read and enjoy something even if I don't relate to it. A breezy read you might call it. This made me a less uptight.

~ These love stories are pure joy. You feel happy just reading them and that is what you spread around. A win win for everyone.

~ Love is a drug they say. Well, it sure hits the right spot in the head and elsewhere ;)

Here are some of the books that I've read and loved:


~ Red, White & Royal Blue: This definitely makes it to one of my favorite reads of the year! Delightfully and deliciously sexy, this LGBT romance is royal and everything beautiful.



~ Call Me By Your Name: This one focuses more on intimate feelings than the romance, but this has to be the most passionate book that I've ever read in my life. I get goosebumps just thinking of it. This is an LGBT romance too.


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~ Me Before You: This is a beautiful story that takes its time to get to the love part. Tragic in many parts, this tearjerker leaves you with the magical feeling of love within. Unlike 'The Fault In Our Stars'. That one just made me want to kill myself.



~ Beach Read: Two writers with writer's block on a beach vacation falling in love. What's not to like?


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~ The Flat share: Two flat mates who share the same flat and bed, but haven't met each other as they work different shifts. Unique concept brilliantly executed. This one even addresses the issues of mental health and gaslighting in a subtle way.



~ Aristotle And Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe: While this is not only a love story, there is a thread of underlying romance throughout it. This books gives you many life lessons and leaves you with a smile and a tear at the end. 


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~ In Five Years: Not your conventional love story per se, but beautiful in every way. As much as this is a love story, the textures of friendship woven into it is just magical!

This is just the beginning and I've already fallen in love with this genre. This is the right time for such books and since love will never go out of fashion, there will continue to be such books. I can't wait to read them all.

Comments

  1. The flat share sounds awesome. I will pick that next. I haven't read many romantic novels because of the fear of not-happy-endings. I cannot deal with heartbreaks. But I agree, the lovely fluffy ones does something great to mental health. It is a reason why I am hooked to some cute romantic webtoons. I am glad books were able to keep your mind off in lockdown. They are magic.

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  2. Lovely post. It's wonderful to read good love stories, it's one of my favourite genres. Me Before You is my favourite. Going to read The Flatshare and I'm adding Beach Read to my TBR list. Thank you for sharing.

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  3. Oh I love this post Soumya. The trouble with romance is that there are tons and tons of books that are really truly BAD. Everyone thinks they can write a romance. Which is what puts off a lot of readers. The trick is to pick out the good ones. A good romance is so uplifting.

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  4. I enjoyed Aristole and Dante too - such a wonderful book! I believe a sequel is due this year - or is it next year, I forget. Romance is a genre I don't read too often too, but you may have just made me rethink this!

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