book = portable vacation
We already know that getting lost in a photograph of nature is surprisingly relaxing. On any busy day, you can take a quick mental break by “walking” down that forest path hanging on your wall and paying close attention to the sunlight and breeze wafting through the trees … or even by focusing on the interplay of color, light, and details in the photo itself.
But did you know that reading about nature — or reading about pretty much anything, really — has a similar benefit?
According to an article in Psychology Today, “reading is tantamount to a mental holiday” that “helps us to be more relaxed and mindful.”
The article’s author describes a 2009 study, which found that “reading could reduce stress by up to 68%. According to this study, reading is more effective than other forms of relaxation — even listening to music.”
And there’s more. “Reading has many positive cognitive consequences. It improves ‘fluid’ intellectual skills that are said to decline with age. It leads to an expanded vocabulary, enhances memory, problem solving, and other cognitive skills. Reading also helps maintain ‘crystalized’ intelligence, the sum of our accumulated experience and knowledge.”
If you’re a regular reader of so-called “literary” fiction, you may even notice that a regular habit of quiet, uninterrupted reading time actually helps enrich your abilities to listen and to empathize.
And, thankfully, these benefits aren’t limited to the over-achievers among us who are reading stacks of books each month. It’s the act of consistently setting aside 30 to 60 minutes of quiet time and truly focusing on the words on the page that gets results, no matter how many pages you get through in that timeframe.
So turn off your phone (or, at the very least, leave it in another room). Then pick up your e-reader or paper book, and read deliberately (no skimming or speed-reading, please) for at least 30 minutes.
Concentrate on what you’re reading.
Let your book serve as an instant, portable vacation that allows you to relax, recharge, learn, and dream.