Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Can reading make you happier?

It’s National Read a Book day today. And as difficult as it may seem to find the time to read during the course of a busy day, a recent large-scale study shows that reading really is good for us – increasing self-esteem and reducing stress.

So, apart from the obvious educational benefits, what is it about reading that makes it so beneficial and how can we carve time out of our busy schedules to pick up a book or two?

An aid to anxiety


No matter how stressed out you feel, the act of reading will help you relax, regulate your breathing and reduce any tension in your muscles. And they’re just the physical benefits. Mentally, reading helps to focus our thinking, reduce the 'noise' and promote mindfulness. You have to be ‘present’ to read and often the very fact that you’ve removed yourself away from the source of your stress or anxiety through doing something else is enough to calm you down.

A way to expand your empathy for others


Reading fiction is a great way of escaping the everyday routine. It transports us to different situations and scenarios that we would not normally experience otherwise and in doing so, it helps us to appreciate things from a different viewpoint. Well-written fiction is designed to challenge our preconceived ideas, test our ideologies and encourage us to empathise with the situations and life-choices of others.

To pick you up when you are feeling down


Depending on the type of books you choose to read, books have the ability to make you feel happy. They help you put our own issues into perspective and, by reading about people in similar situations and facing the same challenges, they can help you feel less alone. Reading about people who have come out the other side can provide hope and make your own problems seem easier to manage. Books make us braver and help us believe that anything is possible.

To send you to sleep


Reading before bed can act as a signal to the brain that it’s time to wind down and go to sleep. Rather than busying your brain, reading actually helps to distract your train of thought. Reading helps to move your focus away from whatever has been happening during the day and onto the fictional story you’re reading. The faster you can switch off your mind, the quicker you can go to sleep. It’s as simple as that.


OK, so now we’re convinced about the benefits of reading, but how do we carve time out of our day to do it? Here are a couple of simple suggestions:


Buy the books


Rather than make a list of the books you want to read, actually buy the books instead. It’s a lot easier to find the time to do something when it’s physically there. Not just the one book either – buy a few – charity shops are full of them. If you're target driven, you can turn it into a reading challenge.

Before bed


As we’ve already mentioned, reading is a positive addition to any bedtime routine. So make yourself a promise to turn off the tv and devices twenty minutes before you retire to bed and pick up a book to read instead.

Digital reading during downtime


There are plenty of apps available that allow you to read through your digital devices. This makes it much easier to cram in a few chapters during your lunchbreak, when you’re in a queue or when you’re on the journey to/from work. However they are not so good for bedtime reading as the light they emit actually impacts on the quality of sleep you subsequently get, so remember to keep the devices for daytime reading only.

Schedule it in


If there's a particular time of the day when you get stressed or experience an energy slump, put some time in your diary then to have a read – you should feel the benefits in as little as 10-15 minutes. And once you have started to make reading part of your daily / weekly routine you soon won’t have to schedule it in at all, it will become second nature.

Read what you enjoy


This one sounds like common sense – and it is – but often we set aside the titles we really want to read, in favour of what we think we should be reading. Harry Potter, Stephen King, Jackie Collins – it really doesn’t matter what genre you’re into, the benefits will be the same and you’re more likely to make time for something that you really want to do.

For more reading inspiration and ideas on how to get started on your reading journey, why not have a look at www.goodreads.com .

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