READ MORE, STRESS LESS
PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY AND PICK UP A BOOK
Step away from your phone people. I’ve got a wacky and revolutionary #selfcare idea for you. Pick up a book. I know, right. A paper book, you say, not those ancient things but I’d rather scroll mindlessly through Instagram for the 99th time today. Put your phone down now!
You see, I’ve been reading a lot lately mainly non-fiction and inspirational reads and I swear it’s helping lower my stress levels and switch off my monkey mind especially at night. I have been surprisingly overwhelmed by my new ability to nod-off faster and sleep more soundly, which in turn makes me a lot calmer and less anxious throughout the day.
In fact, it’s a practice that’s been recommended by experts for yonks. It’s official name is bibliotherapy and it is used to treat everything from weight gain to stress, panic disorders and insomnia. One expert Dr Suzy Green, who runs Sydney’s The
Positivity Institute, says the studies prove it. “Research tells us that reading can help us in a variety of ways including developing greater mental flexibility and creativity by entertaining multiple perspectives and sitting with uncertainty,” she says. “In fact bibliotherapy has been used for many years.
It can help normalise our feelings and responses to the situations we find ourselves in.”
I get it, finding time to read can be tough, especially when you’re juggling work, a partner, kids, exercise, yoga, folding laundry, making juices, holiday planning, Instagramming and your Netflix to watch list (this is me btw). Well, after seeing the list of health benefits you might find more time to do it - from better sleep, to overcoming depression and helping fight Alzheimer's, plus reducing stress and boosting relaxation it’s safe to say that reading is an A-grade wellbeing booster.
Actually, a study by the University of Sussex in the UK found that reading for only six minutes can reduce your stress levels by up to 68 per cent. You read that right, you can slash that stress in half in under 10 minutes. Bingo.
As Dr. Seuss once wrote, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” The places you’ll go alright - reading has an uncanny power of taking your mind off your worries of today, from those stories you’re concocting in your head about how your boss hates your recent presentation or whether your partner’s innocent flirting with his colleague is actually much more worrying ... open a book and you’re magically taken away from that present anxiety-riddled moment.
According to another UK study by the University of Liverpool, readers are “21 per cent less likely to experience feelings of depression” and greater self-esteem and can cope better with stressful situations. Researcher Josie Billington says of the study, “It’s important to recognise the gains to be had from reading on our personal health and wellbeing.”
Yep, reading builds knowledge, expands your mind, improves your conversational skills (when a conversation turns dull, just bring up a interesting book), offers wisdom, broadens your perspective and, says Dr Green, increases empathy.
“Reading has also been shown to help us develop empathy particularly to those that aren’t like us - we gain a broader perspective on the issues that lead a person to behave in particular ways. It can also help us develop greater levels of self-compassion and lead to effective problem solving for our own real life challenges - particularly when we can relate to characters - or the situation they find themselves in is one we’re currently facing.”
And what about reading on a screen? Does that count? “Some research suggests that we tend to scan more from an electronic screen and hence are less likely to retain information,” adds Green, “whereas we are more likely to engage in-depth and concentrated reading when reading from a paperback which can enhance our retention of information.”
Now what I really want to know is, what does a leading wellness expert actually read?
“The last novel I read was Eleanor Oliphant is Perfectly Fine - which I loved. It brought to light a serious issue, being loneliness and mental illness, and just how important social connections and positive relationships are to our mental health.” And really, at the end of the (stressful) day reading is cheaper than a shrink. – www.bodyandsoul.com.au