Why You Should Unplug and Pick Up a Book

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Growing up, one of my absolute favorite things to do was read. Unlike ‘normal’ kids my age who would get rewarded for their hard work with things such as an allowance, visits to Toys”R”Us, new video games or extended TV time before bed; my rewards came in the form of pages. There was nothing that excited me more than a trip to Barnes & Noble or walking down to the local library with my grandparents when I stayed at their house. I would spend hours getting lost in the world created by the author; living and breathing alongside the characters, feeling their emotions and sharing their experiences as if I were one of them. The walls that I was surrounded by fell away and a new world was built around me. The only sounds I could hear were the ones echoing off the pages as the intricacies of another person’s world were being painted in my mind. Ten pages turned into thirty, which turned into seventy, and before I knew it, I was forced to snap back to reality as I finished the last word of the epilogue.

With experiences this amazing, why are avid readers becoming a dying breed? It’s simple, technology.

Many readers have fallen victim to the flashier, more ‘modern’ attention grabbing activities along with being so consumed with the idea of constantly being connected with the outside world. You may find that after reading a few sentences, there’s this tickle in the back of your mind, “I’ll just check my Facebook really quick” or “maybe I got an important text message, I should look to be safe”. Suddenly, you’re scrolling through a social media timeline filled with lip syncing cats wearing funny little outfits. Not exactly how you planned to spend those 25 minutes.

So, before you decide to fall down the mind-numbing, thumb cramping tunnel of infinite scroll, I’ve dug a little deeper on the positive impacts reading has and you might be surprised! Check it out.

It makes you smarter.
This is kind of an obvious one, reading expands knowledge. In fact, reading increases all three types of intelligence: crystallized (knowledge that’s derived from previous experiences and past experiences), fluid (involves the ability to think abstractly, reason, identify patterns and problem solve), and emotional (the ability to identify and recognize emotions, both in yourself and others). The more we read, the more words we’re exposing ourselves to which results in them unescapably becoming part of our day-to-day vocabulary. And what’s cooler than impressing someone with big words that mean something so simple? For example: clandestine, insatiable, and vociferous … Sounds a lot better than: secret, unappeasable, and loud. Overall, reading causes an individual to become more articulate in their speech and thus makes them more confident in their words both orally and written.

It keeps your mind and memory strong.
Mind exercising activities such as solving puzzles or reading stimulates the brain. According to a study published in The Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology, individuals who engaged in mentally stimulating activities throughout their lives experienced dramatically slower memory decline (49% slower) compared to those who did not. In addition, those who take the effort to exercise their brains are 2.5x times less likely to have Alzheimer’s disease. As Dr. Robert Friedland points out in his 2001 study, “The brain is an organ just like every other organ in the body. It ages in regard to how it is used, just as physical activity strengthens the heart, muscles and bones, intellectual activity strengthens the brain against disease.”

It reduces stress.
University of Sussex discovered that reading for just six minutes has the ability to reduce stress levels by 68%! By slowing down the heart rate and easing muscle tension, reading has been found more effective than other techniques such as listening to music or taking a walk.

It helps with our concentration.
More often than not, our mind and attention are in a million places at once; this makes our stress levels increase and productivity decrease. (Wamp, wamp, waaamp) However, when you’re focused on a book, “A sentence is shorthand for a lot of information that must be inferred by the brain. We are forced to construct, to produce narrative, to imagine,” says Maryanne Wolf, director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University. This causes our brain to concentrate solely on the activity at hand as it is called to action which in turn, trains your brain to help you focus more in daily life. 
So there you have it folks, next time you find yourself with some free time, pick up a book. Your mind will thank you and Netflix will forgive you, I promise.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

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“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t much care where -‘ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
‘- so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation.
‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.”

If you are as big of a Disney fanatic and/or bookworm as I am, you’ll recognize this excerpt from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. This is one that I read many years ago and many times since, although it has not been until recently that this quote began to have significant importance to me.

In life, there are various points where you begin to question yourself, your career, and your goals. You wonder where you should go. Many times we, like Alice, find ourselves wandering around in a Wonderland where our expectations and presumptions are continuously being tested and compromised; usually for the good, but at times with more negative consequences than positive.

It’s in our human nature to feel the desire to succeed. No one wants to work hard and feel like they have gotten nowhere, they just want a simple answer to “which way [they] ought to go from here”. And well, there is no simple answer to that. Many of us walk and walk and walk and feel we aren’t getting where we want, but in reality all we knew is we wanted to be somewhere, we just didn’t give enough thought as to where.

So you need to determine, what does success mean to you? Where do you want to go? What do you want to become? Where do you want to be tomorrow? To one person, success could be considered reaching a long term goal. For another, it may be how much money is in your bank account or how many cars you have parked in your garage. Regardless, it’s important to have a direction, without one you can never get “somewhere” because there will be no way to determine where that “somewhere” is. 

There have been so many times where I’ve sat and worried that I am not where I am supposed to be, but when people asked me where I wanted to be, my answer tended to be “somewhere”… Like Alice, I didn’t have a direction. I disregarded my daily successes and focused too much on the overall picture that I wanted to fulfill. At this point in my life, that path is too big to travel, it was kind of like hiking Mount Everest after training only on Mount Monadnock. 

So I changed my path to a more manageable one. Every day I aim to get a bit farther than I was the day before, even if that means I need to fall down the rabbit hole. To journey is to be human, we are always coming from somewhere and heading somewhere else. Every great adventure begins with a small step. Wandering does not mean you’re lost, sometimes you just need to see many things before you know where you need to be.