5 Reasons Why Reading Should Be Part Of Your Self-Care Practice
Margaret Atwood once said “a word after a word after a word is power” and she was right in so many ways. The power of reading isn’t just in the story, it’s also in the mental and physical benefits you gain every time you open a book, whether it’s a popular read or something more left field. Books are much more than the sum of their pages; reading can reduce stress, keep our brains firing at full capacity, connect us with people whose lives look completely different to our own, and can even help us sleep better.
Here are five reasons why reading makes for a powerful part of your self-care practice:
Reading Can Reduce Stress - Relaxation doesn’t have to be complex yoga poses, burning candles and having boujee massages (although we love all those things). A study done in 2009 by a cognitive neuropsychologist at the University of Sussex found reading for just six minutes a day can reduce stress levels up to 68%. The study monitored participant heart rate and muscle tension and, intriguingly, reading won out over other traditional relaxers like listening to music, going for a walk and playing video games. Reading was even more zen-inducing than drinking a cup of tea but with our Book and Tea monthly subscription, you can enjoy the best of both.
Reading Can Make You Smarter - Three different areas of our brains are activated when reading: we use our occipital-temporal cortex to recognise words, our temporal-parietal cortex to understand and sound out words, and our frontal cortex to figure out how to pronounce words. More areas light up when we excitedly recite a passage to a bystander in a totally unsolicited sharing, consult a dictionary to uncover the meaning of a new word, or use a pencil to underline a phrase that particularly affected us (in an act that feels far more rebellious than it actually is). Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body and all that mental flexing leads to epic gains like keeping your brain healthier for longer—a study showed that people who didn’t read on a regular basis experienced a 48% faster rate of mental decline than those who did.
Books Are Portals To New Perspectives - When we pick up a book and begin reading, we see the world through someone else’s eyes. As if by magic we begin to empathise with this person, maybe even seeing ourselves from their perspective, and, in some cases, having our eyes opened to how privileged we are. This experience can be transformative, breaking down stereotypes, assumptions and biases we carry about other people ensuring diversity is met with celebration, not suspicion and fear.
Reading can be a form of therapy too, understanding the perspectives of others can help us solve our own problems and boost our mental health—bibliotherapy uses reading and storytelling to help people overcome addiction, improve social connection, and, when combined with other therapies, even ease mild depression.
Reading Is Dreaming With Open Eyes - With reading you can trip, no pills needed. Being able to leave your anxieties and stresses to one side while you fall down the rabbit hole into the realm of a great read is a welcome break for many. It’s a form of escapism that comes without any risk of a hangover... unless you stay up all night reading (we’ve all been there). Unlike a show on Netflix where you’re shown every detail, with a book you get to play an active role in world-building, using your imagination to fill in the gaps between suggestions on a page. As author Ursula K Le Guin once said, “as you read a book word by word and page by page, you participate in its creation...and, as you read and re-read, the book of course participates in the creation of you.”
Books Are Binge-Proof... Well, Almost - Who hasn’t accidentally lost ten hours to a seriously addictive tv show? We certainly have. And while a Netflix study showed we enjoy binge-watching, which makes sense given it boosts happy hormone dopamine levels, when the credits roll on a show’s final episode we’re left emotionally spent. Studies suggest some people even go through a period of mourning. It’s a lot harder to binge read (unless you’ve got your mitts on a particularly fiery page-turner) largely because reading has been proven to help us fall asleep and to stay asleep for longer. Getting to move through a story at your own pace, and getting better sleep? We can’t think of a more perfect pairing.
Ready to make more time for you? Sign up to one of our Book Box book subscriptions, sit back and wait for your perfect book to fly through the ether and arrive on your doorstep.
- Words by Alice Rich