Many of you who know me will know how much I love to read (I’m always boring friends and clients with the latest from book club!). It’s something I’ve always loved ever since I was a child. Magical worlds you read as children make you believe anything is possible. Ronald Dahl and Enid Blyton, gave me endless hours of joy in their fantasy worlds of enchanted woods, naughty school girls, marvellous medicines and Big Friendly Giants. These books will stay with me forever, and I hope future generations will continue the love of reading.
But books are not just for escapism. As I got older, books were for learning, relaxing and even a social thing (hence the love of book club). Reading a good book can have other health benefits too, from increasing memory and empathy to improving your sleep.
Here are 5 ways reading can improve your health
Reduce illness – Doctors, therapists and social workers have used fiction and self-help books as a tool to heal everything from panic disorders and insomnia to weight gain and stress.
Better sleep – Reading a chapter or two before bed can help you to relax and unwind, increasing your chances of getting a good night’s rest.
More empathy – if you are able to lose yourself in the plot and the books characters, i.e. create an emotional attachment to the story, you are more likely to show empathy for others.
Reduce stress – A study from the University of Essex found that reading is more beneficial for reducing stress than having a cup of tea. They discovered that reading for six minutes without interruptions reduced stress levels by 68%, whereas having a cuppa lowered stress by 54% and taking a walk 42%.
Decreased risk of Alzheimer’s – certain hobbies which engage the brain, such as reading, jigsaw puzzles or playing chess, means you are 2.5 times less likely to develop the illness.
Holistic Health Books in Review
Therefore, any book which can hold your interest and let you lose yourself amongst the plot and characters for six minutes or more can only be a good thing for your health and wellbeing.
But, there are also some non-fiction books that can help with your health and wellbeing goals. Here is a short list of my favourite books which you might like.
How I changed my life in a year, Shelley Wilson.
This a lady we can all warm to. After escaping an abusive marriage, and finding herself a single mum, Shelley Wilson has a holistic therapy business, writes motivational blogs, and non-fiction books.
Based on her popular ‘Resolution Blog’, in this book she describes how she planned to changed her life in one year - 12 different challenges in 12 months, and covers topics such as losing weight, writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days and living without a car. She covers each challenge with straight-talking honesty and her own touch of humour to show that being a 40-something single mum with grey hair and a little too much weight can tackle her demons and find happiness amongst the chaos.
With New Year fast approaching, it’s a well written little book that you can dip in and out of easily, and has lots of great motivation tips, ideas and links to resources. Great if you want to set your own goals for 2018, and need a little inspiration.
Who Moved My Cheese? Dr Spencer Johnson
Many of us don’t like change, and find it quite a stressful process. It is usually easier when we choose to create changes in our lives. Like Shelley in the first book, we can choose to go on a diet, or wear bright clothes to cheer ourselves up, but sometimes life and work throw changes at us that we are not prepared for, and this can be hugely stressful and disruptive, negatively affecting our wellbeing.
This is a story of four characters who live in a maze and look for cheese to nourish them and make them happy. Cheese is the metaphor for what you are looking for to make you happy in life – a good job, a loving relationship, good health or spiritual peace of mind. The Maze is where you look for these things – at work, the family environment, or the local community.
Written for all ages, this lovely little book takes less than an hour to read, but it’s profound insights and words of wisdom can help you discover the secret of how to deal with change so that you experience less stress, and enjoy more success in your work and your life.
Heal Your Body, Louise Hay
The late Louise Hay has helped to inspire millions of people worldwide, including myself and some of my clients. She was diagnosed with Cancer more than 20 years ago, and teaches her methods of beating the illness in this little book.
Being a big believer of the mind-body-soul connection, I was attracted to her idea that the words we use in our every day lives affect our health and shape our experiences, and that by being aware of these words, we can make changes that start to make a difference in our lives.
Using her simple and practical techniques, you will be surprised to discover patterns in your own ailments that are based on long term beliefs and experiences. You will start to reveal a lot about yourself and your thinking. Just look up your illness or health challenge, and find the right affirmation to get back on the road to being healthy.
The Little Pocket book of Meditation, Stephanie Brookes
This a practical little book and ideal for beginners as it shows you short but effective meditations that will fit into your life to calm the mind, body and soul.
When life gets hectic, schedules are demanding, and time is short, this guide will show you how to use the breath to focus, how to document your sessions, and stay motivated with step-by-step, 5-10-minute guided mediations.
It covers a wide range of helpful topics from mindfulness and mantras, to meditation basics, and mediations for self-healing, relationships and a balanced life. Handbag size and perfect for getting you started with meditation and mindfulness practices.
Lean in 15 - The Shift Plan, Joe Wicks
If you want to lose weight and get fit, then this is a great book. Joe Wicks, The Body Coach, shows you how to lose weight without dieting or looking at the scales (or Sad Step as he calls it), and get fit in one condensed book.
Most of his recipes are designed for one, but can easily be scaled to feed more, can be made ahead and frozen for later in the week, and best of all, take less than 15 minutes to make, so even those with the busiest schedule can make time to eat properly. But be warned, he does love midget trees!
There is a guide to everything you need to get started, pre- and post-workout recipes, and even snacks and treats to get you on the right track.
Finally, there is a section about how to burn fat, and build muscle with HIIT. Step by step workouts and plenty of pictures so you can train in less than 15 minutes. Ideal for those with little time. You can also follow him on social media and You Tube where he posts free workouts for you to follow.
So, next time you are having a bad day, or feel a little stressed, grab yourself a book, and read a chapter or two to improve your emotional and physical wellbeing.
“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body” – Joseph Addison.