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Monday, October 17, 2016

Obsessions: Reading and Books

When I saw this, I felt proud of myself for prioritising reading in my daily list of recovery activities: "Can Reading Make You Happier?" The answer was quite encouraging overall.

"Since the discovery of... neurons that fire in our brains both when we perform an action ourselves and when we see an action performed by someone else... A 2011 study published in the Annual Review of Psychology, based on analysis of fMRI brain scans... when people read about an experience, they display stimulation within the same neurological regions as when they go through that experience themselves. We draw on the same brain networks when we’re reading stories and when we’re trying to guess at another person’s feelings.

"Other studies published in 2006 and 2009 showed something similar—that people who read a lot of fiction tend to be better at empathizing with others... And, in 2013, an influential study published in Science found that reading literary fiction (rather than popular fiction or literary nonfiction) improved participants’ results on tests that measured social perception and empathy, which are crucial to “theory of mind”: the ability to guess with accuracy what another human being might be thinking or feeling, a skill humans only start to develop around the age of four."

So it seems that reading books, specifically literary fiction, helps us in our social intelligence. Good information, though I was digging for mental health benefits instead of empathy towards others.

But wait, there's more!

"Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers."

Ah there we go. Although I sometimes stay up too late reading and it eats into my mandatory no-stimuli pre-sleep routine (for fibromyalgia symptom-prevention).

This information did nothing to alleviate my recent book-hunger. I keep on stumbling upon books that I have to have, to read. And I already have a book backlog (thankfully small for now) waiting for me.

But I earn no income from reading, or from the writing that results from the reading. Even if books help me recover, recovery doesn't pay for books either.

For now I make lists of books I would like to read, and window shop online, carrying a basket of books slowly growing, but not quite making it to the cashier yet.

The feeling of staring at the cart and yet unable to checkout really makes my heart yearn for them all the way from here in Singapore. (They are at Amazon.)

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