Read a Book: It'll Cure What Ails You
I feel like the dad with the Windex from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Or a traveling salesman hocking the latest magical cure-all from a Conestoga wagon.
But seriously: reading a book basically cures everything. Hosts of studies show, and our species' thousand-year love affair with the printed word supports, that reading books positively effects nearly every aspect of health including physical, mental, emotional, and social.
Melanie Curtin, a writer for Inc Magazine, recently wrote about a new study from Yale University that found that elderly people who read a book for at least 30 minutes every day, on average lived 2 years longer than their non-reading counterparts. Further, the study emphasized that it was important that the reading time was "deep reading" with a book, as opposed to a magazine or newspaper.
Curtin wrote about this study from the perspective of being an avid reader herself. She said, "This makes sense to me on an intuitive as well as intellectual level. Because I feel different after reading disparate Instagram posts versus spending 30+ minutes reading a book. It's much like the difference between eating junk food and having a real meal; the shorter posts are fun and pleasurable to read, but I feel empty after scrolling. When I read my book, on the other hand, I feel filled up. Nourished."
For a year I've been trying to articulate just that. That GREAT feeling you get when you read books. Your brain is buzzing, your mood is buoyant. You are interested, attentive, open, present, calm and focused. More of that! It's definitely doing something up there.
Researchers don't know yet why reading books is causing people to live longer, but they have a few ideas. In many ways, it suggests that cognitive fitness is just as important as physical fitness for health, happiness, and well-being.
To paraphrase Curtain, that feels intuitively and intellectually true. So, take two, and call us in the morning (aka sign up for our email newsletter).
Common Ailments of The Modern Condition (and an Italic Type prescription!)
Burnout: An endless list of things to do feels like a full frontal assault and the "always on" nature of work leaves you feeling worn out and guilty. Hide away for a day, no phones allowed, and reset.
Try – Circe by Madeline Miller. Alone on a Greek island, the mythological witch shapes the world how she wants.
Anxiety / Depression: It's a global pandemic and regularly cited by top health organizations around the world as a major threat. One thing we know that reliably makes people feel good is learning something new.
Try – I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong reveals the biology of our inner worlds and marvels at the billions of microorganisms that live within and have coevolved with humans over time.
Loneliness: Now you have something to connect with people on! Check out NoName's book club: books for the homies. They host in person discussion groups in different cities and conversations on Twitter.
Try – NoName's current pick: Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler
Dementia: Reading books has been shown to strengthen neural networks and increase connectivity in the brain. The act of reading a book for at least 30 minutes cross-activates different parts of the brain as well, and gets them to interact with each other, an aspect that scientists believe is meaningful.
Try – The Mists of Avalon - an epic retelling of Arthurian legend, this time telling the tale from the perspective of the women. Maps, mythology, multi-generations of priestess witches. It'll be like muscle milk for your brain.
Netflix boredom: You can keep scrolling through categories and cringing through auto play previews, but there's nothing good on anyway. You need adventure!
Try – 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. It just sucks you in and never lets go. Don't fight it. You live there now.
Political ennui: The times, well, they could be a-changin' faster.... Get buried in a book and wake up when it's over.
Try – These Truths: A History of the United States by Jill Lepore. It's big, and it's intimidating. But you'll learn a heckuva lot about how and why we've arrived at our current political moment.
Don't forget the fine print at the bottom!
The Reading Cure is available at your local independent book store or library. Ask friends, clerks or librarians for recommendations before taking the Reading Cure. Side effects may include: firing neurons making connections in your brain, building knowledge, imagination, empathy, sense of calm, focused energy.