“To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.”
I recently came across this quote and it got me thinking. You often hear it said that reading is a great tool for escapism; just pick up a book and be transported to another world, or maybe to the intricate and engrossing goings-on of a character’s life to forget all your real life woes. I can completely see the appeal of dipping into someone else’s world view when yours is not as you’d want it to be. It’s a coping mechanism and not a bad one really.
However, what that quote made me realise was that if I’m going through a particularly rough patch, I actually struggle to read, sometimes can’t read at all. I don’t mean being in a slump and not connecting with a book, it’s more like my ability to concentrate on anything other than the thing that’s worrying me is so all consuming that I can’t focus enough to read, which in itself is distressing as (you may have picked up on this) I REALLY like to read.
While thinking about the idea of reading as escapism, this article I saw a little while ago popped into my head. It claims reading for just 6 minutes a day can reduce your stress levels by 68%. Since being aware of this fact I do now make more of a concerted effort to read for this amount of time per day (easier said than done with 2 kids under 4!) but even if it’s while waiting for the dinner to cook or something, I like the feeling of knowing I’ve got a little further in my book every day. Maybe it is reducing my stress levels although, as I’ve said, if I’m really stressed I can’t read, so not sure I’ll ever be able to test this! All I know is that I’m always pleased I took the time to read a few pages and it always makes me feel good. I asked my friend, Cat (a fellow book-lover) for her thoughts on this topic and she agreed with me that it helped her general mental health to get reading time in each week; she had another interesting take on it too:
‘All the online content, all the TV shows, all the podcasts can leave me feeling like my brain’s been shaken in a cocktail shaker! Reading resets me from that, it’s engaging but in a different way.’
It’s so true and not something I’d considered before; we live in an age of information overload and there is something so satisfying and relaxing about turning off all screens and cracking open a book. (I know there is many a Kindle reader out there, but you get the idea..) Maybe it’s something to do with your ability to dictate the pace of your read when everything else is seemingly sent at us in such high speed.
So… It turns out I’m not one of those people who uses reading as escapism in the sense of the quote. I really would love to be, I think it would be such a great coping technique and something I’m going to work on. I do use reading to escape for a few minutes each day to have a little time to myself though. I love being totally pulled into a story and submerging myself in the plot and characters, but – right now – I can only do that if my real life ‘miseries’ (to quote the above quote) are in check.
I’m intrigued to know your thoughts on this – let me know below!