With the modern world often being noisy and chaotic, how many times do you find yourself wishing you could escape it all? Sometimes all that is needed is a good book to unwind and clear your mind.
Imagination and empathy
Diving into another time, place or even world can allow life’s problems to drift away and calms your thoughts, aiding relaxation. By experiencing another person’s perspective in your imagination, reading enables you to live other people’s lives without leaving the room. It not only broadens the mind, but it increases empathy as you get to experience emotions and situations you might not come across in real life (a good thing most of the time), making you more aware and understanding of other people and their feelings.
Change your life
Reading can also be inspiring. Reading about how a character has overcome difficult challenges in his or her life can motivate you to tackle your own obstacles, or take positive steps in the right direction. From how to get over heartbreak to realising you are in the wrong job, books can change your life. When I finish a really amazing book it can stay with me for weeks, sometimes years after, and change my entire view on entire subjects.
Even reading for a short amount of time has immediate health benefits. A University of Sussex study showed it reduced stress by up to 68% and the effect was faster and more effective than listening to music, taking a walk or having a cup of tea. Research has also revealed it slows the progress of Alzheimer’s and dementia, helping to keep the brain active and stimulated – almost a cerebral work-out. On top of that, it increases your vocabulary and expands your knowledge about the myriad subjects with which you choose to engage.
The joy of a physical book
Digital e-readers are now more popular than ever, but for me, nothing beats the feel of a physical book in my hand. The smell, the weight of the book and the enjoyment of turning the page all add to the reading experience. The battery doesn’t run out, and you never have to worry about finding somewhere to charge it. Staring at the screen of an e-reader can dry the eyes, making them tired and strained.
Improve your sleep
Taking in a few chapters before bed can help you to wind down and relax, preparing the brain for sleep. It allows you to forget about the day’s problems and creates a welcome ritual.
Make new friends
Although not usually considered a social activity, reading can actually improve and create friendships. Spotting someone on, say, a train or at a bus stop reading a book you’ve read can allow you to strike up conversation with them and create a new connection. Having a passion for books means you can never run out of things to talk about, helping you to make friends wherever you go via a shared love of reading. Attending a book club is a great way to meet new people, and allows you to discuss literature and gain fresh interpretations you may have missed.
This article was originally published in Issue 2, Breathe Magazine – Small Wonders.