Bibliotherapy: a form of therapy that recognises that books have the power to aid people in solving the issues they’re facing.
I’m sure it won’t come as a shock to most of you, but reading is actually good for you, and when I say good for you I mean, the scientifically proven kind of good for you. It’s no secret that reading is a go-to when we want to de-stress, gain perspective or learn about new things, but the health benefits of reading don’t stop there.
Reading has actually been connected to an improvement in mental health. When immersing yourself in a good book you separate yourself from the dilemmas or stresses you may have. Certain books also help you realise you are not alone in what you are going through, which is often a focus for the healing process: recognising others are going through what you are.
Studies have linked reading to cultivating empathy and improving social skills, through connecting with fictional characters we can benefit in our real life relationships as it increases empathy with other people’s points of view. It’s also been shown to relax you by stabilising your heart rate.
As if this wasn’t enough, a study summarised by psychology today stated that being an avid reader throughout life and continuing into old age can reduce memory decline by more than 30% – and have fewer signs of dementia. In other words, activities which both heavily employ reading and writing methods and focus on continuously exercising your brain.
According to Mentalhealth.org, 1 in 6 Adults in the UK suffer with a common mental health issue, Shelf Help is an online/offline book club and community dedicated to self-help, self-development and founded by journalist Toni Jones.
Combining the best elements of book clubs (sociability, accountability opportunities to learn) with support groups (connection, confidentiality, kindness) Shelf Help meetings are safe spaces for members to meet new people and to discuss the books and how the topics may affect their own lives.
We chat to the founder, Toni Jones, about her inspirations and what the future holds for Shelf Help.
Shelf Help Code: Confidentiality, kindness, no judgement. All are welcome who come with an open heart and mind.
What do you do?
A couple of things. I’m a journalist and producer, but I’m most passionate right now about my self-help book club and brand Shelf Help
Could you tell us a little bit about how shelf help works?
It’s a book club and community dedicated to self-help and self-development. My mission is to connect as many people as possible with books that inspire them to look at themselves in a different, more positive way. And then to connect these people with each other, through online and offline meetups (we work through a different book each month) and author events.
What kind of people are members?
Everyone is welcome and we have members from all walks of life. We’re a pretty easy going book club and because the topics we cover are universal – happiness, habits, self-love, anxiety, sleep, routines etc – we have people who come to the meetups who haven’t read the books but still want to talk about the concepts in them, and maybe share their own stories.
What made you leave your full-time career in journalism and start shelf help?
My interest in self-help really came after I left my full-time job, it’s only then that I started to spend proper time with myself and look at my thoughts, feelings and behaviour. I really struggled at first as I had spent a long time trying NOT to do any of that – staying busy for decades in an attempt to bury lots of sadness and anger that I had about a pretty turbulent childhood. Self-help was a massive help to me at that time. As were support groups like Al-Anon, and so I decided to create something that I felt combined the two.
What was it like starting your own venture?
Having worked in high-pressured news environments for a long time it has taken me a while to get used to setting my own deadlines and priorities but I LOVE being my own boss, being able to choose the projects and people I want to work with, and I’m grateful every day that I’m getting to build a kind and curious community and work on something that I can see is actually changing people’s lives.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Oprah – of course! Also Brene Brown, Arianna Huffington, Louise Hay and Gabi Bernstein.
Have books always played an important role in your life?
Always. I used to retreat into Enid Blyton as a child when I felt scared or alone, and spent hours writing books of my own and creating alternate realities that I would dream about escaping to. I am quite a fast reader and like to hop between titles so usually have four or five on the go at the same time.
Has shelf help helped you develop on a personal level?
Massively! I read each book that I recommend at least twice and so I’m developing myself that way as well as learning loads from the members, who are obviously interested in bettering themselves and their lives. I also get to meet lots of experts and authors. And I’ve never been pushed out of my comfort zone so much – running events, learning to share my story, creating a community – but I’m loving and embracing it all. 🙂
What’s the future hold for you and shelf help?
My dream is to help thousands of people to love themselves more so that they can live up to their full potential and live amazing lives. One way I want to do this it to have hundreds of Shelf Help meetups groups around the world, meeting on the same day each month to discuss the same book, and so early this year I will be working on recruiting hosts and empowering them to share the Shelf Help love (any wannabe hosts can apply here 🙂 https://www.shelfhelp.club/host-a-meetup-1/). Personally, I am really interested in learning more about positive psychology and the science behind addiction and habits and so am looking at taking some coaching qualifications so that I can work on a more personal level with individuals looking to develop themselves.
Top Three Books of 2018
Change Your Life in Seven Days by Paul McKenna https://amzn.to/2Ah9Kib
Shelf Help Book of the Month for January and the one that started it all for me.
We are not broken, but many of us think we are, and this book shines a light on why that is, before helping us to change the relationship we have with ourselves, and thereby helping us to change our lives for the better.
I have chosen it for January as I think it’s a brilliant introduction to some of the biggest and most popular self-help themes and it really does offer a kind of life makeover, so what better way to kick off a shiny new year?
Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington(just out) https://amzn.to/2RoHJyY
A brilliant handbook on how not drinking booze will make your life better in SO many ways. Ruby is not about deprivation and is instead all about helping us get high on our own supply and learning to celebrate the benefits of a hangover-free life. A January must-read for anyone a little bit spiritual who is ready to really look at their relationship with booze.
The Kindness Method by Shahroo Izadi (Aug 2018 Book of the Month) https://amzn.to/2MOYUUP
Author Shahroo is an addiction specialist who knows that working on our self-esteem is the only way to create lasting habit change. She knows this because as well as working on front line addiction services for the NHS and at the Amy Winehouse Foundation she has used her methods on herself to lose and keep off 8 stone. The Kindness Method was one of the Shelf Help members’ favourite books of last year.
If you think this sounds like something you’d enjoy then you should give her latest blog post a read, she gives you a great insight into how to deal with being sober. You can read it here.
She’s also hosting a sober curious supper club at the end of Jan which you can buy tickets to here.