Several weeks ago, this blog covered the benefits of a morning yoga practice and physical activity in the morning. However, it is important to not only work out the body in the morning but also the mind! Rather than beginning the day trying to mentally juggle one million things; reading is a great practice to reduce the number of things you are thinking about. This is a great way to start the day with a level head and calm mind. Luna Greenstein of the National Alliance on Mental Illness states:
“Reading is considered a mental break because the brain is only focusing on one thing rather than the usual eight things. You can’t multitask while reading a book, and what you’re focusing on causes you to think, use imagination and create your own visual imagery. It’s this type of focus that gets our minds more nimble and creative. As the saying goes: ‘Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.’”
Carving out time in the morning specifically for reading is a great practice because you are more likely to actually follow through with reading. Many people say they would like to read more, but in reality, after a long work day and the stresses of everyday life, it can feel much easier to turn on the TV rather than to open a book. If you schedule a short time (15-30 minutes) in the morning to dedicate to reading, chances are much higher that you will read the book you’ve chosen. It doesn’t take much time, but if you do this consistently you will likely find you are getting through books faster than you ever thought possible, and learning new things every day. According to Medium.com, reading for 15 minutes every morning will allow you to get through 18-23 books every year!
Motivation: Especially if you tend to reach for self-help and personal development books, reading at the beginning of the day will help to inspire and motivate you to go out and achieve your goals. Sometimes one specific idea or sentence in a book is enough to light you up for the whole day and see things in a new way. Reading in the morning will make you more likely to apply the things you read in the day ahead, leading you to incorporate new life skills and strategies.
Stress Reduction: As mentioned in the beginning of the article, reading ensures your mind can focus only on one thing rather than juggling multiple thoughts at once. This lowers your stress levels and allows you to start the day in a much more clear-headed way. The World Literacy Foundation explains that reading for even 6 minutes a day can reduce stress levels by up to 68%.
Brain Training: If you believe that your thoughts hold as much power as your reality, then it is easy to understand how reading can be beneficial. When you read, you are experiencing the book’s situation in your mind, thus influencing the brain and preparing your reaction for when/if the situation happens in reality. PsychologyToday says, “Reading can be like mental gymnastics for the brain. Recent research supports the notion that reading influences our thought processes and is a very potent form of brain training. In a way, reading leads to practicing what we encounter in the world, but it is all in our brain, which can be a good challenge for brain health.”
Improved Memory and Focus: Reading has been shown to increase the capacity of one’s working memory and increase attention span. This is because you need to tune out every distraction in order to actually absorb what you are reading. As you become more invested in a book, you automatically focus more deeply and for longer periods of time. This can then be applied to other tasks that require serious and sustained concentration.
Positive Brain Stimulation: Rather than being stimulated by a smartphone or the internet, stimulation from a book can be very beneficial for brain health. Mental stimulation of this type is extremely important for keeping the brain functioning at a high level. Debbie Hampton of “The Best Brain Possible” explains that neural pathways can actually be lost if the brain is not regularly stimulated and challenged.
Communication and Connection: Reading allows one to wear many different hats. It gives you the opportunity to view life from the perspectives of many different people and characters. A study on Medical News Today found that frequent readers of fiction books scored higher on tests of empathy than people who didn’t read/only read non-fiction. It’s also possible that reading helps to develop a stronger “theory of mind,” or understanding of how others think and why. This can help relate and connect to others more easily and naturally in real life.
Expanded Vocabulary: This is perhaps the most obvious benefit; but the more you read, the more words you are exposed to! Having an expanded vocabulary will give you access to more words and more ways to use them in conversation and writing, increasing your ability to communicate clearly and effectively.
Looking for a new read? Why not start by learning more about yoga and meditation. Here are some great picks:
Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day by Jay Shetty
Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom by Rick Hanson
Yoga Girl by Rachel Brathen
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Did this post inspire you to do something good for yourself in the morning? Keep your eye on the MYKW blog for more information about self-care in the morning in the coming weeks. Every week will feature a different topic relating to self-care in the morning, as we prepare for the CAMH Sunrise Challenge, which asks participants to rise with the sun and do something positive for their mental health every day for a week from May 31st-June 6th 2021. The donations raised from the challenge will go toward the CAMH's research and treatment for individuals struggling with mental health. Find out more or donate to the MYKW team at: http://give.camh.ca/site/TR/Events/2021SunriseChallenge?team_id=4631&pg=team&fr_id=1180