when a photo is (almost) as good as the real thing


By now, you’ve heard me say this at least a few times: Reading a good book is a perfect way to relax and reduce stress.


Then there’s this: Choosing a peaceful, quiet spot to read your book offers a double dose of relaxation. The silence itself can help alleviate stress even more than the book alone by reducing tension in both your body and your brain.


And if you can find or create an outdoor reading nook, in or close to nature? 


Now you’re reaching triple-relaxation territory.


As you’ve likely already discovered, being in nature — and, crucially, making a concerted effort to observe nature — can give you a quick mental “vacation,” improving your mood, restoring your focus, lowering your stress, and helping you relax.


The true beauty of this bit of nature magic is that it works regardless of whether you’re actually in the natural scene you’re observing or not.


Enjoying some quiet reading time in a forest, or a park, or a garden? Perfection. Reading in your favorite porch swing or patio chair — or inside but near a window — and admiring the wind in the trees? Pay close attention to those rustling leaves, and you’re still good.


And when the natural scene you’re observing is a photograph? Believe it or not, the magic still works.



Taking a few minutes to focus on a photo of nature — especially repeating patterns of the sort found in leaves, clouds, ferns, and flowers, for example — can serve as a form of mindfulness meditation that helps quiet our anxious brains.


So when the weather won’t cooperate and you can’t get outside: hang pictures of nature on the walls of your library, or place small photos of nature on a shelf in your reading nook, and you’ll reap the benefits of being “in” nature no matter the weather.


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Welcome to the online home of The Novel Cat, where reading, relaxing, and snuggling with cats are a way of life. I’m Jennifer, and I help former and aspiring readers maximize life’s simple pleasures — like the joy of savoring a good book — by helping them create quiet spaces (both mental and physical) inspired by the habits of cats, who are masters at finding joy in life’s small details.

“The only important thing in a book is the meaning it has for you.”

W. Somerset Maugham

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”


“There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.”

Marcel Proust

“Standing there, staring at the long shelves crammed with books, I felt myself relax and was suddenly at peace.”

Helene Hanff

“What a happy woman I am, living in a garden, with books … birds, and flowers, and plenty of leisure to enjoy them!”

Elizabeth von Arnim

“A book is a dream that you hold in your hand.”

Neil Gaiman

“The art of reading is … an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us; when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind.”

Carlos Ruiz Zafón

“When I … looked round at the familiar bookshelves, and could hear no sounds but sounds of peace, and knew that here I might read or dream or idle exactly as I chose with never a creature to disturb me, how grateful I felt to the kindly Fate that has brought me here and given me a heart to understand my own blessedness.”

Elizabeth von Arnim