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Reading: Your Health Depends on It

Today was my first day of in-person teaching 7th grade ELA. It was a very LONG day, but all things considered it went well. No matter whether you are teaching in front of live students, or you are going “live” virtually, keeping yourself and your students healthy is even more important this year than ever! Lucky for me, one of my first loves is actually good for my health.

A study directed by Dr. David Lewis at Mindlab International at the University of Sussex in the UK, found that, “Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation. “As the paper reported, Psychologists believe this is because the human mind has to concentrate on reading and the distraction of being taken into a literary world eases the tensions in muscles and the heart.” The best part is that you only have to read six minutes a day – six! No matter how stressed I am, how long my day has been, or how many things are on my “to do” list, I am certain I can carve out six minutes a day. (View a video of Dr. Lewis here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hp3qNlEa2RY)

What are the benefits of reading? I am glad you asked. Reading –

  • lowers blood pressure
  • lowers heart rate
  • reduces muscle tension
  • drops stress levels (up to 68%) faster than walking or drinking tea.

There is just one catch – it can’t be required reading. It must be something you are reading just for fun, so you can really make that great escape.

These weeks leading up to the start of school have been VERY stressful, and I haven’t taken much time to nurture my soul, but there were two bright spots. The night before two of my grandchildren were beginning 1st grade, I video chatted with each of them and read them First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg. They attentively listened to “Nona” read them this adorable story about Sarah Jane Hartwell’s first day of school. They loved it! What I noticed after each reading experience was that I was smiling the entire time I was reading and felt the weight of my day fall away. That feeling changed the way I approached the rest of my evening, and I actually felt more energized.

That experience has shored my determination to make time for reading aloud to my 7th graders. Kids are never too old to be read to, and if it can lower their stress levels (and mine) than it definitely has to be one of my priorities!

So, if you are thinking that you do not have time to engage in reading self-care, here are a couple of ideas to try.

  • Audible books: Use your commute to listen in the car – just don’t take your eye off the road. I especially love listening to books set in other countries, so I get to hear the characters’ accents.
  • Meditation Apps: Many of these apps have sleep stories that help you wash away the stress of the day and fall alseep easier. My sister gifted me with a year subscription to the Calm app and a bluetooth headband. I put on my headband, choose a story, and direct all of my attention to the rich descriptions read by the gentle voice of the narrator. Before you know it, I am out like a light and on my way to a great night’s sleep.

So when you’re feeling stressed, make time to read. The life you save may be your own! Please add your ideas for making time for the daily six minute read in the comments below.