If I were to give someone one tiny piece of advice on how to get out of a mental funk or become free from feelings of cloudiness, I would recommend that they pick up and book and resolve to read it cover to cover.
There is something about holding a book, flipping pages, smelling the paper and ink that makes me feel connected to the generations before me. The times when television entertainment and tracking political feuds on Twitter weren’t even an option.
I feel like I can breathe a breath of fresh air and detach from the constant flow of half-truths floating through the atmosphere of social media. Yet, is there something about reading that feels below our current generation? As if we have attained something so much higher that putting our eyes on a piece of paper now feels trivial?
I would argue that while the internet and television may have been born of good intent, and may have at one point brought the family together with entertainment and conversation, what we have today is a whole other animal. Without the amount of options at our fingertips, the ability to skip commercials, the amount of screens that exist in each home, the political infiltration onto every program we can possibly find, the internet and TV just isn’t what it used to be; and I don’t think it is serving us the way it once was.
Studies have found that watching TV (and I think that cell phone usage would be bundled into the same category to a certain degree) can have catastrophic effects on people in every stage of life:
The Oxford Academic journal states, “We also confirmed negative... effects of TV viewing on verbal competence, aggression, and physical activity. In particular, the present results showed effects of TV viewing on the frontopolar area of the brain, which has been associated with intellectual abilities.”
IN OUR CHILDREN
When it comes to our children, the Medical Daily tell us that, “In 2013, a team of researchers from Ohio State University interviewed and tested 107 preschoolers and their parents to see how television impacted a child’s theory of mind. The more a child watched television or was exposed to television, even if it was playing in the background, the weaker their understanding of their parents’ mental state. Ultimately, if the television was on in the vicinity of the child, it impaired their theory of mind, which is defined as the ability to recognize their own and another person’s beliefs, intents, desires, and knowledge”
The JAMA Network tell us that with our school-aged kids, “Studies have also underscored exposure time as a risk factor for unhealthy lifestyle habits in school-age youth, predicting less than optimal physical activity, body weight, and fruit and vegetable intake, consumerism, and tobacco and alcohol use.”
I’m aware that most of us know that TV isn’t healthy for the young people which we have been given the responsibility of taking care of. But what about for us, the adults?
IN US, AS ADULTS
Business Insider via JAMA Network talk about effects on us as adults, stating, “People who watch a lot of television, combined with low physical activity, are more likely to experience greater decline in cognitive function in middle age than those who watch less television and are more active.”
Managing our screen time is just one more thing that we have to adjust to as a society. Learning healthy balances that are unique to you, and learning when our bodies are saying “enough”. I also learned that detoxing from screen addiction can take a whopping 4-6 weeks of no screens at all before reintroducing and beginning to use it in a healthy manner. This applies to both children and adults.
Sometimes we think that we need to be on social media in order to stay up to date on current events, stay connected with friends and observe how the world is coping with the constant flow of insanity out our window. However, although I agree that we should all stay up to date with world events, I also think that our obsession over it is robbing us from healthy coping mechanisms and gives us the illusion of being “connected”, but in reality is probably nothing more than an endless scrolling of bad news.
The best way that we, as individuals and as a society, can contribute to the betterment of the whole, is to improve ourselves on an individual level. Become responsible for your inner life and personal health. Focusing on your life and your well-roundedness will probably do more good than anything you or anyone you “follow” posts on social media.
Adjusting to life and bettering the world happens on an individual level.
Another interesting study that I found on the benefits of reading that I think ties in perfectly, tells us that “Reading literary fiction can reduce your need for 'cognitive closure,' making you better equipped to deal with uncertain situations.” (Business Insider via Creativity Research Journal)
For the amount of devastation that we see on our screens and the amount that we are exposing ourselves to traumatic realities, we will need to reconcile these things at some point. Reading helps us with that.
Every time we open up our books to dive into a new adventure, whether that be in the form of a novel, self-help, biography, etc., we bring our minds into a place of de-escalation. “According to researchers at the University of Sussex, “six minutes of reading can reduce stress levels by up to 68%” (Inforvoresecrets)
So pick up a book. A real book. And although I know that we all really like our new gadgets, tired eye and discomfort are still correlated with most e-readers. So I personally recommend a good ‘ol ink and paper book.
Enjoy the struggle of putting away the phone or TV remote. Enjoy what it feels like to be a human being who experiences boredom, creativity, adventure and stillness. I know that for me, the moment I get my eyes off the screen, my life begins to open up.
I love to read novels, self-help, psychology, philosophy, biographies, poetry! Why? Because it expands my mind, helps my psyche to heal and helps me to become a better friend and more well-rounded communicator.
All my love to you and yours. And remember, there’s a whole big wide world out there, but you can’t touch it through a screen ;)