New research by the University of Sussex has revealed that reading is the best way to relax and even six minutes can be enough to reduce stress levels by 68% or more.
Psychologists say it is because the human mind becomes part of the world of the book when reading fiction and this journey to a world outside of the one that stressed you out eases the tension in the muscles, including the heart and the brain.
You only need to read, silently, for six minutes to slow down the heart rate and ease tension in the muscles.
Listening to music reduced stress by 61%; a cup of tea or coffee lowered stress by 54% and taking a walk by 42%.
Playing video games brought stress levels down by 21% but left the volunteers with elevated heart rates well above their starting point.
Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation. By treating yourself to a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination.
This is more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.
This is especially important for Afrikan people in America (yes, I spelled ‘Afrikan’ with a K), who suffer from greater levels of negative stress than any other group in the world.
On August 31, 2012, I suffered seven cerebellar ischemic strokes. The fact that I survived one such stroke, let alone seven, and never lost cognizance, nor suffered any paralysis, left doctors scratching their heads and left me intrigued by the cause, as I am in good physical shape, teach martial arts and avoid iodized salt, pork, a lot of red meat and greasy foods. I am also only in my mid-forties, so, while I was happy to be alive and – for the most part – unaffected by the strokes, I was also concerned about what caused them in the first place.
The major contributing factor is stress. Negative stress, that is. Negative stress is highly destructive and can lead to permanent disability or death. Sadly, we do not understand stress and have thus trivialized it and placed the blame for our stress on others. How many times have you told someone (or they told you) “You’re stressing me out”, as if they have power of you? We control how we deal with stress.
What is Stress?
Stress is the non-specific response of the body to any demand placed on it. In layman’s terms, stress is anything that causes a change in your body. These changes are triggered by different feelings such as sadness, fear, anger and happiness. Every time your feelings change your body changes and this results in stress.
Stress can create feelings of conflict and /or anxiety within you. It can stem from demands you place on yourself or from external stimuli. If stress is not identified and resolved, it can progressively deteriorate your ability to function physically, mentally and emotionally.
Everyone has stress, regardless of age, sex or race.
All stress is not bad, nor does all stress have a negative effect on us. Some stress we experience is good and has a positive and motivating effect.
We have problems when we experience too much, or too little, stress in our lives.
Too much stress causes us to feel tense and pressured; this creates conflict. Too little stress makes us feel bored, unmotivated and lethargic, which also creates conflict within us and sometimes with others.
Therefore, it is important to maintain a proper level of stress in your life.
Signs of Stress
The body gives you signals to let you know that you are experiencing stress.
Some signs of stress are headaches, dizziness, fast heartbeat, abnormal eating habits, troubled breathing, inability to slow down or relax, depression, ulcers, high-blood pressure, phobias, and disturbed sleep patterns.
Stress can be caused by a number of things happening in your life at any point and time. For example it could be not having enough money; poor self- concept; death; divorce; winning the lottery; or graduating from high school, college or Grad School, but the most frequent cause of stress is change, such as loss of a loved one; job loss or advancement; illness or injury and lifestyle changes.
Some stress is positive – eustress – and creates good opportunities and outlets in life. Positive stress can keep you motivated and inspire your creativity.
Negative stress – or distress – results in debilitating anxiety that affects your overall mental, emotional and physical health.
For avid readers, the fact that reading reduces stress is bonus news but to those who don’t read often enough or dislike reading, it’s time for a change – one that produces good stress and reduces negative stress. It’s time to take a mini-vacation of the mind…that is read a book!
If you or your child are a reluctant reader, I recommend reading a gamebook, which puts you directly into the story and allows you to choose how the story progresses. Gamebooks are also great for avid readers seeking something unique and something that allows them to exercise their creativity while enjoying an amazing story.
So, go ahead, grab a book and give yourself a healthier and happier life!
Go here for a few books to get you started.