Healthy Escapism: Reading to Relax
Reading is one of my favorite low-cost stress-reduction activities. I love reading to relax. There is something mentally relieving about turning the mind over to a story or riveting subject matter.
Getting into a good book, in that sense, can be like a mini-retreat. It’s reading meditation. It’s a vacation from the regular rattle and hum of the brain. And in my book (pun intended), it’s healthy escapism.
There is a relaxing effect that happens when we allow our brain waves to sync with our eye movements in the act of reading. It’s as if creating a lulling rhythm of left to right, page to page, has a positive physical effect on the nervous system.
I’m willing to bet there have been studies on this very matter, but I can only testify to my own experience with my nose in the books. Time flies.
Reading is almost the opposite of meditation or other practices that encourage us to “be present”. I am a big believer in meditation, and practice it daily. My more disciplined practices are vital to fostering balance in my life.
And I also revel in the richness of habits that often feel more indulgent, in the sense that I get joyfully lost in them, disappear into them. It’s my lazy-woman’s meditation practice.
And I love that you can pretty much read anywhere. Try keeping a paperback in your bag. A good book can make an interminable bus ride fly by, or a tedious wait in a doctor’s office feel like a treat.
I know the gossip mags are a hideously effective temptation and easy to get lost in them too, but perhaps a sweet little book could make a healthy replacement from time to time? Plant better seeds.
As most of my friends know, I usually have several books going at once although I’m not the fastest reader. And by several books, I mean a stack of 7 or so next to my bed at any given time.
I’ve read some good ones lately, among them:
We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For by Alice Walker. Her message of light in a time of darkness is poignant.
The Seductress by Betsy Prioleau is about historic women who bucked the matronly M.O. and ravished the world with their lost art of love.
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink (also a very well-acted film).
And The Pearl by John Steinbeck (when I was kayaking on the Sea of Cortez).
I get a lot of my books secondhand from friends. And I love the energy of passing books along. It’s a generous gesture and a commitment to learning and sharing.
Read a book. Pass it on.