Pick Up A Book And Kick Out Stress

Dear Friend,

You must have realised that life is full of many colours, many shades. Sometimes it is full of joy, sometimes full of sorrow. One has to learn to live with all kind of emotions and situations. These days, stress has become a big word. No, I am not talking only about the pandemic that has made everyone’s life especially stressful. I am talking about the modern life in general. Stress has become one of the most dreadful words in modern world. Pressure to win competitions, constant search for perfection, difficulty in finding a right balance between work and family life, intensified work load to increase productivity gains, major changes in values and social standards, every aspect of modern life brings in additional bout of stress. As a result, everyone is fighting stress as much as they are living their life. There are experts, gurus, speakers, websites, making a thriving business of advising people on how to fight stress, but so stubborn is this stress that it refuses to move an inch from people’s lives.

But I am on a different point here. Why to make it so complicated what is so easy to handle. Renowned Urdu poet Raghupati Sahay Firaq, popularly known as Firaq Gorakhpuri, had a beautiful couplet which said: “Meri fitrat dekhiye, meri tabiat dekhiye, jab sulajh jati hai gutthi, phir se uljhata hoon main (Look at my nature, my temperament, when a problem is solved, I again make it complicated)”. This is what we have been doing with stress we face in daily life. I am not saying that one may ignore or underplay it. It has to be dealt with since it is said to contribute about 60% of all human disease and illness. It may not be possible to eliminate stress from everyday life given the nature of the life these days. But we can certainly manage to lower the levels of stress in our day-to-day life. Most certainly, we can put things in place to stop it from becoming a serious health issue. More importantly, we can do it through some simple things, simple habits, simple practices. You can find out your own stress busters. The things, habits, practices that work for you to reduce your stress level. It might be photography, dancing, singing, partying and many more. All of them may require additional time, equipment, expenses, planning, etc. and may come with their own stressfulness. What I am going to suggest comes with the least of such baggages and has been proved to be more effective in busting or managing stress.

One of the most effective approaches to stress busting is reading. Yes, reading. There are a number of scientific studies
that show the great powers of reading in lowering stress levels. Reading can and does have magical effects on the working
of a stressful mind. A study by the University of Sussex, a leading research-intensive university in UK, has shown that
reading could reduce stress levels as much as 68%, coming ahead of going for a walk and listening music. The study found
that people who took part in as little as 6 minutes reading experienced their heart rate slowed and muscle tension
reduced. That’s not all. There are many studies that have shown that reading has great ability of slowing down the cognitive decline in a human brain. Do not forget that it is the very cognitive decline that leads to mental disorders like dementia
and Alzheimer’s. So, reading as a mentally stimulating activity effectively reduces the chances of developing both these illnesses. Just to cite one, a study by researchers at Rush University Medical Centre over the many years of observing the participants found that those who engaged in reading and writing were less likely to show physical evidence of dementia such as brain lesions, plaques and tangle.

Moreover, there is a strong correlation between reading and intelligence. A study published in the journal of the Child Development some years back found that children with better reading skills by the age of 7 had higher scores on IQ tests than those with weaker skills. Reading has also been shown to help fluid intelligence (the ability to reason and solve problems) as well as emotional intelligence, the attributes that enable you to make smarter decisions about yourself and people around you.

So, what do you think would be a good way to switch the brain off before going to bed? Reading, of course. Creating a bedtime ritual such as reading a book can promote better sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness. Reading leads to better sleep and it is all the more important because good sleep helps reduce stress by encouraging deep breathing and lowering heart rate.

Let me sum up with the words of Ezra Pound, the early modernist American poet, who said: “Man reading should be man intensely alive. The book should be a ball of light in one’s hand”. So, pick up a book and kick out the stress. Happy reading!

As always, with all the best wishes for your success and well-being,

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