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Article: Reading for Relaxation and De-Stressing

Reading for Relaxation and De-Stressing

Books to Relax & De-Stress

We live in a busy and stressful world. Most women I know lead hectic lives, combining a multitude of roles as wives, mothers, career woman, social organisers, domestic workers and general co-ordinators. Sometimes, with all the juggling that we do, it can be hard to find time that is just for us, time simply for de-stressing and total relaxation. And yet, if we wish to avoid burnout and health problems associated with tension and exhaustion, time for ourselves is vital.

When women friends tell me that they are too busy to read, I always feel sad. They are missing so much. Reading is, in my view, an essential part of life, and I want others to share the joy it brings me, and also the health benefits it brings.  Often it is simply that someone has got out of the habit of reading. Maybe you read a lot when you were younger, but somehow life got in the way and you dropped the reading habit? Here are some tips for getting back into the wonderful world of reading and rediscovering your reading mojo:

  • Find a really enjoyable book (preferably fiction). This could be a work by an author whose books you have already enjoyed, or it could be an old favourite from childhood or youth. The main thing is that it will be a pleasurable experience to turn its pages. Don’t head for the latest Booker prize winner or some worthy tome that others have told you should read. Just find something funny / gripping / moving for yourself.
  • Make a time for reading each day, even if this is only for ten minutes. Sit somewhere comfortable, pour a cup of tea or coffee, and don’t get up until you have spent your allotted time (keep mobile phones well away – they too easily cause distraction).
  • Pay a visit to your local library and bookshop. Maybe it is some time since you last went inside either, maybe you don’t have a current library card (if that’s the case, join up immediately) and browse the shelves. It’s not likely to be long before you see something you want to borrow or buy. In bookshops, check out what coming events they have planned. It can be inspiring to hear an author speak about a book, and nice to have a signed copy to take away. It’s also really important to support local booksellers and libraries.

Once you have developed a reading habit, you might like to try different ways of reading. Audio books are one of the great pleasures of my life. I listen to downloaded books, read by fabulous actors, as I cook, go for walks, do mundane tasks such as ironing or cleaning, and the time whizzes by so pleasantly. Many people have recently discovered the pleasures of listening to podcasts, but a book takes you out of yourself even more and provides greater relaxation and imaginative stimulation than a podcast can do. Ask friends who enjoy audio books about favourite readers and titles. Libraries also have good selections of audio books – fiction, biography, history and titles for children. Listen to Timothy West read Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Towers series and you feel you have found Heaven! Some authors can be excellent readers of their own books – Michelle Obama reads her autobiography very well, and Sarah Winman’s reading of her novel Still Life is superb. You can fit so many more good books into your life if you take advantage of audio books, and there’s such an amazing range available.

Sharing the joy of books is an important part of the reading process. How about making 2022 the year you finally join a book club (or start one yourself if you don’t know of any in your area). Many Australian cities have literary societies – the Jane Austen Society of Australia, the Australian Brontë Association, various Dickens societies, Sherlock Holmes groups, and more, will welcome new members and give you the chance to make new friends who share your love of books. Hearing a very different response to a novel can open your eyes to new ways of seeing and reacting, and talking over what you have read increases and extends the reading pleasure.

All the evidence shows that reading is good for you! Reading in bed before you turn out the light increases your chances of a better night’s sleep. Reading increases your vocabulary and general knowledge, improves brain connectivity, lowers blood pressure and heart rate, lessens the symptoms of depression, improves analytical skills, deepens focus and concentration, strengthens the brain and helps prevent age-related cognitive decline. Reading affects your life in so many positive ways. Yale University School of Public Health did a study that showed that reading can literally add years to your life.

The internet has revolutionized our world, but a huge part of each day can go on chatting, googling, reading unnecessary on-lines articles and memes, and watching videos. The result has been that people are growing more impatient and are losing focus, their powers of attention are worsening, and they feel bombarded with information, much of which may not be correct. The internet does not tend to make each of us a better person. This means we need reading more than ever, for the knowledge, relaxation, emotional connections and sheer pleasure that it brings us. Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body – it should be a regular and loved part of a daily routine.

Let books into your life and it will never be the same again. But we warned – there is no known cure for Book Addiction!

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