Time to curl up with a good book?
How are things going with you this week?
It’s certainly felt like winter these last few days and as I write this, there is a gentle flurry of snow in the air.
What I’ve found interesting, is that this cold spell has changed how I want to spend my time – normally we’d be so busy with work and school and driving around from place to place, that we wouldn’t have much time to tune into what’s happening outside – aside from the grumbling about having to defrost the car in the morning. Whereas now I feel more in rhythm with nature and as the cold seeps into our well-heated home, it’s making me want to curl up under a blanket once it gets dark and settle down with a good book. How about you? Has this cold spell changed any of your habits?
Wellbeing activity of the week: READING
I absolutely love reading and have always been a book worm! And I’m certainly not alone in this, with reading making it into the top 3 of our most relaxing past times in all recent surveys.
Reading can be a wonderful escape from the stress of everyday life, especially during challenging times (did someone say pandemic?!) By opening a book, turning on a kindle or listening to an audio book, you can become instantly immersed in a completely different world that distracts and diverts from our current worries.
Reading has also been shown to relax the body, by lowering our heart rate and easing the tension in our muscles. Plus a 2009 study by the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68% - yippee! Reading also works quickly and efficiently to relax us – now if a medication did all this, wouldn’t we all be rushing to find out more!
I also really love libraries - I love the atmosphere (calm and centring - and certainly not total silence as anyone who’s ever been in Maidenhead library at toddlers story and sing time will know!!) I love them so much, I ended up working in various public libraries (including the glass and steel beast that is Maidenhead library) as a student. And I still love the thrill of the hunt for a new book – whether by a favourite author or something entirely new just waiting to be discovered. Plus that wonderful feeling of arriving home with a whole pile of books - ready to be devoured!
I spent many happy hours working at Maidenhead Library (well except during heatwaves, as all that glass makes for one giant unbearably hot greenhouse!) I enjoyed sorting and shelving books and especially loved going out on the mobile library with our jolly driver Ray. In those days the mobile library went all around East Berkshire and we were often out in the more rural parts of the county, stopping for lunch in country parks. So when I stumbled across The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes last year, having at its heart a community library – with books delivered on horseback and set in the rural mountains of Kentucky in the 1930s – it was right up my street and I absolutely loved it! Well worth a try if you haven’t yet read it yet, as it’s been my favourite book of the past year.
Tablets, Kindles, Audiobooks
If asked pre-pandemic, I would have said that I would always be a “read from a physical book person”, that these new-fangled e-books were not for me. When we went into lockdown I had 3 library books, one a completely new copy from a favourite author. But then something strange happened, as for the first time since my boys were tiny (when I used all my spare time to catch up on sleep!) I had no urge to read at all and these 3 books sat untouched for several months.
Then because the library remained shut, I decided to experiment with reading books on the Kindle app on my tablet – non-fiction health books at first (as part of my Jin Shin course extravaganza of 2020!) Then I tried reading a novel on my tablet and to my surprise and joy, it really felt pretty much the same as reading a physical book and since then there has been no stopping me.
There is also another fabulous option and that is the audiobook, once a rare commodity, there are now thousands of audiobooks that you can listen to via apps like Audible. This is a great option for listening to at night, especially if sleep is proving elusive, or during the day if it feels companionable to hear another voice.
Reading need not be an expensive hobby either. And you don’t need a Kindle as you can simply download the free Kindle app onto your tablet, phone, laptop or desktop. Libraries are still open online (and in some cases for click and collect) and Windsor & Maidenhead libraries use the Libby app that allows a certain number of library members to borrow an e-book or audiobook at the same time.
For those of you who have Amazon Prime membership, I also discovered there are a whole host of free books and magazines available through Prime Reading and you can borrow 10 at once, with no time limit on how long you borrow them for. There is also the option to join Prime “First Reads” where you get to choose 2 free eBooks from each month’s selection of 8 pre-release titles. I’ve made full use of this in January and February and because there is limited choice, it’s easier to decide – well worth a look.
By coincidence, Martin Lewis (of MoneySavingExpert) also covered 20 ways to get 1000s of free e-books and audiobooks in his newsletter last week.
So I would urge, encourage and cajole you into reading more during this wintery weather – be it old favourites, e-books or audiobooks.
Plus, if you are missing travelling abroad at the moment, immersing yourself in a book set somewhere different or exotic can literally transport us away to a different place or time. I’m currently reading West with Giraffes, (an Amazon January First Read), based on the real life event of 2 giraffes surviving a terrible hurricane off the East coast of America in 1938 and then going on a road trip across America on route to San Diego Zoo. I’m really enjoying it and learning more about life in America in the 30s – I’d never heard about dust pneumonia before for example (worse in a lot of ways than Covid as it was caused by dust storms that regularly battered the “dust bowl” states and something that can’t be solved by vaccines, the only solution being to pick up and move your entire family).
If you’re reading something fab at the moment, do let me know and I’ll share them in a future newsletter.
Self-treatment suggestion: REST
My self-treatment suggestion this week is really simple and yet can have powerful benefits - for your health, your immune system, your mental & emotional wellbeing:
Allow yourself more rest!
The cold and the snow are encouraging you to do exactly this and I’m giving you permission to do less and rest more (should you feel that you need permission!!)
So what exactly is rest? Well it doesn’t have any of the pressure associated with getting a good night’s sleep, it is just allowing yourself to be still and to either do nothing or to do something very gentle and calming, such as slowly sipping a cup of tea while listening to some music or an audiobook or doing some reading.
Perfect times for allowing yourself some rest are:
· After lunch, take a breather and let your food go down before firing up for the afternoon,
· Late afternoon, early evening – at the end of your working day and before preparing your evening meal. This is a fabulous time to take a break and wind down – with or without a cocktail! And if you don’t think you have time to fit a brief rest in before cooking, then try what I’ve done today, which is to prepare a meal in the slow cooker - it now needs nothing more than dishing up this evening and lo and behold I’ve bought myself a 30-minute rest :o)
· Before going to bed –this means turning off the tv/computer 15-30 mins early and settling down in a chair (or bed) to relax and properly unwind – or you could choose to have a warm bath.
If you struggle to switch off while resting or feel the call of your phone/tablet, then give holding your little finger a go. The little finger is all about the fire of summer & the drive of our working day and so by holding it we are allowing ourselves to dampen this fire and adrenaline down – which will also benefit our sleep later on. Also if you are holding a finger it’s harder to scroll on your phone!
So give having a rest and reading a good book a go this wintery week and see how much better you feel for it on all levels.
Wishing you a warm, cosy and restful week.