Why slow reading is good for your health

 

It's another new year, and we are finally going to let go of habit x, y, z.

You know, the ones that didn't work out from last year.

I like New Year resolutions. I try them every year. But lately, with the increasing flurry of emails, likes, texts, tweets, blogs, insta posts and videos (did I miss any?) I've been feeling like my attention span is in combat to keep up, even for New Year resolutions.

Let me explain.

Gone are the days when our monthly prescribed magazine arrived in the mailbox and old fashioned reading time began, without the buzz, beep or ting of online social media calling and tempting.

It occurred to me this week that without the readily available and luxurious distraction of internet data connection or wifi, that I was reading a novel in a steady, thorough, and fully intrigued manner.

For years, my attention span has been conditioned to read short surges of information like quotes and excerpts from books and, well... who needs to read the whole book when you've got juste of it, right?

Instead, I devoured not one but three of novels from cover to cover, immersed into the character development with the flip of each page. 

I know I'm not the only one who struggles with this social-media-stimulus-overload.

According to a survey conducted at the Pew Research Centre, about 76% of Americans, 18 or older, reported reading one book in 2014 (1).

Latest research released from Common Sense Media says that "reading rates don't just fall as kids grow up, but they've also dropped dramatically over the last three decades, with 45 percent of 17-year-olds admitting they read by choice only once or twice a year."(2) This decline is due to technological advances.

Kids would just rather instagram and snap chat. 

If you've drastically passed up reading novels over the past few years and would rather stayed plugged in to brief blasts of information, here are 5 reasons why you should consider dusting off your books and engage in some serious slow, and uninterrupted reading. 

Improve concentration

In the span of a few minutes, many of us can talk on the phone, while answering an email, listening to music, and simultaneously keeping an eye on Facebook notifications.

Our ability to multi-task is simply developed from this unconscious practice, day-in a day-out.

Studies show that just 30 minutes of uninterrupted reading a day can help us strengthen our concentration by the practice of keeping our attention in one place. 

Develop compassion

Slow reading, particularly fiction, can improve our ability to relate to people and become better listeners.

A study, published in the Journal of Science, found that reading fiction helped people become more compassionate by better understanding the mental states and beliefs of others. 

Strengthen memory

Reading a novel require us to remember a lot of information in order to understand what's happening. We need to remember the characters, what they look like, their names, backgrounds, history, likes, dislikes, and nuances.

When we attentively engage in remembering these kinds of details, we create new synapses or pathways in the brain while strengthening existing pathways.

One study, published in the Journal of Neurology, showed that regularly engaging in challenging mental activities, such as reading, slowed the rate of memory loss later in life. 

Decrease stress

According to the University of Sussex Research, reading can reduce stress levels by 68%.

Cognitive neuropsychologist Dr. David Lewis tested the benefits of participants reading silently for six minutes and found that it immediately slowed down their heart rate and eased tension in the muscles.

Dr Lewis says, "It really doesn't matter what book you read, by losing yourself in 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."

Conserve will power

When we focus our mind on one task, we allow ourselves to be present.

Developing our concentration conserves our energy. Multi tasking dissipates our energy. 

Most people would admit that good concentration allows them to feel more at ease, yet most will do nothing to strengthen it. Perhaps due to a lack of motivation. Or perhaps because the "log off" button is the hardest button to click.

Slow uninterrupted reading is a powerful way to harness our energy and will power, allowing us to become more efficient and effective in our life.

Our will power is likely that missing variable in our New Years resolution equation. 

 

Much love and lady flow care,

 
Elaine Clark, nutritionist, writer, women's health pioneer, and founder of LADYFLOW. Elaine is creating a movement of women living in sync with their hormonal wisdom and creativity. Elaine works with health conscious women to feel at home in their body and awaken to their creative feminine potential. She offers a variety of tools to help women balance their hormones through her workshop offerings, online programs, and health products.