Finding Peace in a World of Electronics
From digital cameras, to credit card thin TVs, to fresh-off-the-assembly-line smart phones and beyond, every holiday season has its must-have electronic gadgets and this season is certainly no different. With the focus on gifts that require electricity or batteries, it easy to forget the non-electronic category of gifts—the dependable, and often simpler, form of Santa surprises. Now, I’m not referring to jewelry or slippers. I’m talking about books. Good, old-fashioned paper books; not e-readers, but the ones where you can feel the paper between your fingers… a book.
Many people love their e-readers, but studies have shown that e-readers leave us less satisfied and less connected to the stories and information presented in books. In fact, a 2014 study showed that reading electronic books makes it harder for us to follow the plot. This is potentially due to the inability to track our progress through the book visually, as well as physically. Additionally, it seems that in order to understand and retain the information we read, we need chunks of reading time. Electronic reading sets us up for more short, interrupted reading times, potentially reducing our focus and comprehension.
Paper books seem so last century to many, but perhaps it is time for us to go back to the basics—to a simpler life that is more in tune with enjoyment, good health and peaceful moments. Paper books can do this for us.
The Science Behind Reading and Good Health
Science has shown that reading a book is beneficial for us in many ways, including the improvement of our health. Based on a study by the University of Sussex, England in 2009, the number one benefit of reading a book was stress reduction. That’s correct. The study showed that reading was the most effective way to reduce stress; even more than listening to music, which is also super healthy for us, taking walks or enjoying a quiet moment with a nice cup of tea. As the researchers measured heart rate and muscle tension, they found that it took just six minutes of reading for the participants to relax. It doesn’t matter if we read fiction or non-fiction. It’s getting lost in a book that is the key. Reading helps us escape our stresses and worries in a healthy way.
Like many of us, I can binge watch 4 hours of Nikita re-runs on TV when I go to bed at night and still be wide awake afterward, but I can’t seem to read more than 4 pages of a book before I’m struggling to keep my eyes open. As part of a de-stressing routine that includes turning off all electronics at least an hour before bedtime, reading is recommend by many experts as a way to get a better night’s sleep. This is because reading actually calms the mind, whereas electronics agitate the brain, signaling it stay awake, keeping us from much needed sleep.
Reading also makes us more empathetic. A study in The Netherlands showed that readers who were transported away through the fictional story became more empathetic by the end of the week. Being more empathetic benefits us because it allows us to connect with others on a deeper level, bringing us together. These kinds of connections are in alignment with our natural states of being, peace and connection, which in turn boost our health. Sounds like great reasons to read a paper book!
Give a Gift That Keeps on Giving
The last time I was lost in a book was when I read The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown, Corgi Books, 2004). This might seem like a long time ago, but I haven’t read much because not long after that I began writing my own book (Mood, Food and Gratitude: Healing from the Way We Think, Balboa Press, 2016). Writing a book can keep you from doing lots of things, especially reading other books. However, I remember how great it was to be taken away into a different world, getting to know the nuances of the characters, getting involved in the unfolding story and the history that accompanied it. I couldn’t put that book down. This is just the kind of thing that feeds the soul.
The number of benefits we can experience when reading paper books goes on and on. In addition to what we have already learned, reading has also been shown to reduce the potential for Alzheimer’s, reduce depression and help us keep our brains sharp. It would seem clear, then, that a paper book is a gift that keeps on giving.
Let’s face it, electronics stop working, they fall out of favor the moment a newer version hits the shelves and they don’t provide the special connection a good book can provide. The experience and enjoyment that comes with reading a classic book, or reading one that we enjoy immensely, stays with us for a lifetime. So, this holiday season, do something different. Pass over the electronic gadgets and buy your loved one a paper book. This down-to-earth action turns a transient gift into a lasting treasure.
To keep reading about how to remain mentally healthy, check out:
Stay Upbeat During the Winter Blues