“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” — Joseph Addison
The summer holiday is here. It is the end of school for the kids. Mum and dad (whichever is you) just want to disconnect from work and give the kids a good time. There is that hope that they would also have a great time as a couple. Most times, this is the plan. a good plan. But experience has shown that people come back from holiday more stressed before they embarked on it. The reasons are numerous — overpacked schedules, missed flights, spending more than budgeted for, general crankiness, etc.
But one way to “soften” the holiday is to plan for a good time to read.
Yes, reading a book.
Reading a book does you good, especially in today’s fast-food world. In fact fast food is too slow. Let me rephrase — in today’s Tiktok world. A 2009 study by the University of Sussex found that reading for just six minutes can actually reduce stress levels by up to 68%. This is because reading involves concentration, involvement, and engagement. This focused attention enables the mind not to wander. That is how stress is reduced. Focused thinking has an inveterate and inadvertent way of arresting wandering thoughts that cause stress and overload on the body system. Reading induces focused thinking.
Unwinding with a good book is a hobby many of us enjoy, but perhaps we take for granted how much it can contribute to our wellbeing. In a busy world full of technology and distractions, reading can help us to reduce stress, understand life, and see our problems in a different light. Reading makes you realize that the issue (whatsoever it is) is common to others. You may enjoy hobbies that very few do but through reading and researching, you will discover your “blood group” and bond with them. Again, you are not alone.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” — George R.R. Martin
With social media, online activity and other digital distractions are competing hard to take our attention. With that, it is easy to forget the benefits of reading a book purely for pleasure. However, connecting with a book that has no connection to your regular routine can bring numerous benefits. It expands your mind and worldview, thereby giving you a glimpse into what is possible.
Opening a book and immersing yourself in its content, whether it be a romantic novel or a sci-fi story, will help you to escape from the stresses of everyday life. This is a fact. You can wonder and wander into various countries without a visa through reading. You can get immersed in a culture that is foreign to you. You can juxtapose your ideas with great minds at no cost while reading.
Let me share an experience. I did a programme in Duke University in 2016. This was during the American presidential election season and campaigns were in full gear. I got into conversations with my classmates about American politics. I drew parallels about what was going on there and gave a pointer on why some things might just happen. After the conversation, my classmates were asking about the American university, where I did my first degree. I told them “UNIBEN”. “Which University is that?” they asked. I told them it is in Benin City, Edo State 🤣.
I saw the confusion on their faces and decided to help them out. As you might have inferred, they were trying to know how I knew so much about the workings of the American political system. I told them I lived, followed and read American politics for a long long time. Reading made me a global citizen without me stepping a foot in another country.
Reading also has the physical benefits of reducing your heart rate and easing muscle tension. Think of reading as a healthy and free brain holiday! Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation. In addition to being a source of escapism, reading also provides knowledge, which in itself can bring a great amount of relief and comfort. Reading books that provide answers to the problems that have been plaguing your body and mind for weeks can be a soothing end to specific concerns. It might just be the ability to connect facts to solve a pending issue that you thought about.
Reading books can also provide inspiration, highlighting a host of exciting possibilities and ideas. I love reading biographies and autobiographies. The simple reason is that I want to know how people did this and that or how an issue came about — real-life stuff told by those who made it happen or those who were present to record it for posterity. Those books can help us to learn about the extraordinary abilities of the mind. Possibilities !!!!
If you are a parent, remember that the more your child sees you reading, the greater chance they will pick up a book, and so the whole family can benefit from reduced stress and great learning. So, whatever spurs you to pick up a book, enjoy the level of relaxation it brings you. What if we all allowed ourselves a few minutes a day to focus on nothing but the words of our favourite stories? I once stayed with a family whose favourite time of the day was when the mother read them stories. Afterward, she allowed them to make up their own stories. It was usually a magical time when that happens. I call it …the simple joys of life.
In these uncertain times, reading is not only a way to pass an afternoon or wind down screen free before bed but also a way to self-soothe and give your mind a break from all the worrisome news. Are we not tired of the constant bombardment of bad news from every land or clime? Reading, while often a solitary act — perfect for these times of self-quarantine — can also be a fantastic way to connect. Connect with yourself and your precious thoughts. You never know what can come out of it.
Let me add another bonus. this summer, you might want to binge-watch a series with the family. It provides bonding time and an avenue for everyone to chat and give views on what happened in the movie or why they preferred a certain character. Conversations lead to spending time together. Spending more time together = bonding. These are the memories the kids will remember when they have their own families.
Let me sneak this in — do watch this series on the evolution of the Nigerian music industry — “Afrobeats: The Backstory” by Ayo Shoniya. It is on Netflix. I thoroughly enjoyed it as most of the events happened in my lifetime. If you are watching it as a family, there are a few scenes that (0.5%) parental control needs to be on. But all in all, it was great storytelling and documentation of the rise of the Nigerian music industry.
But you can only do this after you have read a book this summer.👀🤣✌
Hasta la vista. See you next summer.