How many books are you going to enjoy this year?

by Nora Vasconcelos

As soon as this year started, I saw many posts on social media asking people “How many books are you going to read this year?“, I also saw some other posts inviting readers to join reading challenges to be fulfilled by the end of 2023, so they would finish certain amount of books through the year.

Many people responded with enthusism, and I think it’s good, anything that invites people to read is great, but then I also remembered how much I enjoyed the books I read last year, and how much books helped me get through to the longest and worst part of the pandemic lockdowns.

In both cases, books took my mind away all problems and worries, they helped me travel when traveling was out of the questionsm and they also took away the real life, when that was needed.

So I wonder how good it is to fall into this constant pressure of how many and how fast you’re going to read this year, why not just asking “How many books are you going to enjoy?” with an answer as simple as “as many I feel like“.

I know metrics are part of this world, but we frequently forget that enjoying the things we do is also important.

Regarding this, I think we could add the idea of “Slow reading” to our often always-in-a-hurry-lives.

Espressions such as Slow travel and Slow food have become common in recent years, the same as mindfulness, all of them inviting people to slow down, be really present in the moment, and enjoy the things we do.

Recently, the New York Times published the following article:

It’s time to slow down!

The article talks about the book “Slow Birding: The Art and Science of Enjoying the Birds in your Own Backyard“, by Joan E. Strassmann, where she reflects on how we can gain a better insight “into our inner circle of everyday birds“.

This brings me back to my idea of “Slow Reading“, a movement of which Wikipedia has a brief but very interesting article, for those how want to learn more about this topic.

In the end, it’s up to everyone to decide what makes us feel happy, and if reading many books in a year is that, that is also fantastic!

But if somehow some readers feel the pressure to complete a list of books by the end of the year (just because the idea appears so often everywhere), insted of taking their time to enjoy every single book they hold in their hand, then let’s just do that!

Happy readings, my friends! 🙂

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To reduce stress and anxiety, write your happy thoughts down

A. and I. Kruk/Shutterstock.com

Michael Smith, Northumbria University, Newcastle

Writing about positive emotions may help to reduce stress and anxiety, according to our new study, published in the British Journal of Health Psychology.

Earlier research has also found that writing about negative emotions – getting things “off your chest” – can improve your mental health. And it seems to benefit physical health, too.

Stress affects your physical health, so it is thought that improvements in mental well-being might stop people becoming physically unwell. Research has shown that writing about negative emotions can lead to fewer visits to the doctor, fewer self-reported symptoms of ill health, and less time off work due to ill health.

Not many studies have investigated writing about positive emotions, but if writing about negative emotions helps people deal with their negative thoughts and feelings, then it’s possible that focusing on positive emotions might have a positive effect on people’s mental health.

Earlier research has shown that writing about positive experiences for 20 minutes a day, for three consecutive days, improved people’s mood and led to fewer visits to the doctor. Even writing for as little as two minutes a day about a positive experience has been shown to reduce the number of health complaints that people report.

While earlier studies showed that writing about positive experiences can improve your mood, we didn’t know what effect it might have on stress and anxiety.

Twenty minutes a day

For our study, we investigated whether writing about a positive experience – which could include anything from being moved by a good book, painting or piece of music, to falling in love – could reduce stress, anxiety and common health complaints, such as a headache, back pain or coughs and colds. We also wanted to know if it would be helpful for all people, regardless of their level of distress.

Writing about falling in love could be good for your mental health. Look Studio/Shutterstock.com

We recruited 71 healthy participants, aged 19 to 77, and randomly allocated them to one of two groups. We asked one group (37 participants) to write about the most wonderful experiences of their life for 20 minutes a day, for three consecutive days, and we asked the other group (34 participants) to write about a neutral topic, such as their plans for the rest of the day, over the same time frame.

We measured levels of anxiety, as reported by the participants, immediately before and after they completed their writing task. We found a significantly greater decrease in anxiety for those people who wrote about positive experiences, compared with those who wrote about neutral topics.

The participants also reported their levels of stress, anxiety and physical health complaints four weeks after they completed the writing tasks. Stress and anxiety decreased to a significantly greater extent for those who wrote about positive experiences after four weeks, compared with the levels reported before they completed the writing tasks. However, writing didn’t improve participants’ physical health problems.

We also found that writing about happy moments was effective, regardless of the levels of distress that people reported at the start of the study.

Because we excluded people with a diagnosed psychological condition, we can’t be sure that this technique would work in a clinical setting. It’s also important to note that in order for them to engage with the task, it wasn’t possible to blind participants to the treatment. Another limitation of our study was that we relied on self-report questionnaires, rather than using objective measures of mental and physical health.

Of course, emotional writing may not be for everyone. Personality traits, problems expressing emotions or a disinterest in writing might mean that for some people there are better ways to tackle negative emotions.

An advantage of writing about positive emotions to tackle stress and anxiety is its simplicity. Unlike many other strategies for improving psychological well-being, this task needs no training or time spent with a therapist. People can do it at a time and place that is convenient for them – and it’s free.

Michael Smith, Associate Professor of Psychology, Northumbria University, Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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