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Mindful Reading

The following was prepared by Natalia, our Training Director, in her capacity as the Director of Library and Information Services at the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College...

Mindful Reading at CMCC: A Bibliotherapy-based reading program for employees and students.

The increase in mental health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the search for effective ways to address mental health and well-being of the employees coping with stress, anxiety, grief, fatigue and other psychological and emotional issues triggered by the pandemic. On the other hand, finding those strategies became more challenging since most of the traditional employer-sponsored wellness programs, such as group physical activities, meditation, social club gatherings, etc. suddenly became unavailable due to remote work and social distancing.

Thankfully, we still have access to the wealth of the world literature to draw upon its power to console, heal and guide through life challenges and hardships. The idea of applying literature into everyday life constitutes the theoretical basis of Bibliotherapy, a widely recognized evidence-based practice of using books and reading to promote health, well-being, and resilience to people of all ages. Given the fact that the majority of existing life problems of a personal or social nature have been addressed through world literature multiple times and from multiple perspectives, books may provide readers with insights into their particular situations and most importantly make them feel less alone. Today, Bibliotherapy offers a variety of successful applications that could be delivered both in-person and online – in virtual rooms or through organizational websites and newsletters.

With this in mind, while continuing with my primary responsibilities related to library collections and services, I put my “bibliotherapy hat” on to launch the “Mindful Reading” program for the faculty and staff of the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC) in March 2020. Similar to the previous bibliotherapy program that I developed and implemented at a community hospital in Toronto a few years ago [1], it involved thematic compilations of readings to address topics relevant to the participants needs. Delivered to the institution's employees over the period of three months, the compilations were part of weekly wellness newsletters circulated by the Human Resources department.

The short readings of various genres (poems and excerpts from both fictional and non-fictional writings) invited readers to explore existential themes relevant to the complexity of the pandemic reality through the world literature, philosophy and psychology and learn about the evidence-based wellness strategies that may help cope with today’s challenges. By selecting authors representing different cultural and spiritual traditions – Marcus Aurelius, Rumi, Dalai Lama, Chief Dan George, Mary Oliver, Emily Dickinson, Juan Ramon Jimenez, Rupi Kaur, Haruki Murakami, Hermann Hesse, Ivan Bunin, Viktor Frankl, Thich Nhat Hanh, and others - we created multiple opportunities for individuals of various ages and backgrounds to connect with the readings included into compilations to pause, reflect, and potentially gain insights into their own situations and life problems.

In the Fall of 2020, the program was expanded to include CMCC students. In collaboration with the CMCC Mindfulness Club, the Library started weekly reading sessions to assist students in managing stress and building resilience. During a 30-min Zoom session, students would take turns to read a poem or an excerpt from a short story, novel, memoir, a work in psychology or philosophy, etc. and share their thoughts, reflections or recollections triggered by readings with the group. The content of compilations facilitated discussion around mental health, resiliency, mindfulness and suggested the evidence-based stress-management strategies to students.

The program was well received by both CMCC employees and students. The participant feedback collected through informal conversations showed that the readings provided a break from the overwhelming amount of the daily pandemic-related information and created an inspirational venue for reflection and self-exploration, which helped cope with anxiety, worries, frustration, and loneliness and isolation, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some acknowledged that they shared the compilations with their family members and friends, thus expanding the circle of individuals who benefited from the program. The positive feedback provided by CMCC faculty and staff is consistent with the results of the evaluation survey in the previous study [1] that showed the effectiveness of the bibliotherapy-based intervention in promoting mental health, well-being, resilience, and personal growth at workplace. The accessibility of the program in the ‘online only’ environment has further increased its value.

  1. Tukhareli, N. (2017). Bibliotherapy-based Wellness Program for Healthcare Providers: Using Books and Reading to Create a Healthy Workplace. Journal of the Canadian Health Libraries Association, 38 (2), 44-50. https://journals.library.ualberta.ca/jchla/index.php/jchla/article/view/29199

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