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How Reading is Beneficial to Our Mental Health

After a long day of school or work, it may feel less than tempting to pick up a book. Many people use their downtime to indulge in a TV show. In fact, according to Nielson’s Total Audience Report, the average person spends over four hours a day watching TV. I’m sure this is far from shocking. I, too, would be lying if I were to call myself an extreme outlier to this situation. The delayed gratification that books provide seems less appealing, especially under fatigue. However, when we look to programs such as television or social media as an outlet for stress reduction, we are actually harming ourselves more than helping.

What should we do to de-stress?

Read! According to the World Literacy Foundation, reading is beneficial for both our physical and mental health. Reading is found to lower blood pressure and heart rates while simultaneously relaxing our minds and significantly reducing stress. Over half (68%) of one's stress can be released with reading.

Why do we often instinctively lean toward other activities?

From an early age, our minds connect reading with academics. As a result, we feel it is antithetical to absorb more academic content after returning home from learning in school or working. However, many books are not academically based. Personally, I love to read memoirs from one of my favorite actresses, Mindy Kaling, after a hard day of school. I am engaged as I read, using my imagination and analysis skills while reading these stories, rather than mindlessly viewing a story on a screen. Fictional books are another great option. Similar to movies, fiction can take you to outer space, the Super Bowl, or another galaxy. However, unlike movies, they won’t harm your sleep schedule with blue light technology.

How do I get my kid to recognize this?

Children don’t typically care about statistics. The younger we are, the less we understand the magnitude. Learning that 50% of people experienced something has little inherent value to children unless they are a part of that number. You could try to get your child to read more by dissociating reading with schoolwork. Rather than forcing your children to “read for x hours before bed,” tell them that you will let them read before bed if they do their school work. Our world is so fast-paced that sometimes when we live in the moment, we feel left behind. Technology only increases this sense of anxiety and desire for instant gratification. Reading provides for a more calm, healthy, and happy lifestyle.

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