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Start Reading! Reading Books Is How Obama Survived The White House

Start Reading! Reading Books Is How Obama Survived The White House

Remember those days as a kid, when you could be transported to another world and back all in a single afternoon? Sitting down with a good book was a chance to dream and imagine. Fortunately for adults, reading is not only entertaining and enjoyable, but also a great way to reduce stress and learn about the world around you.

Reading Reduces Stress

According to a study published in the Journal of College Teaching and Learning, reading for just 30 minutes can dramatically reduce stress levels. Researchers studied the stress responses of students enrolled in the Health Science program, a rigorous and high-stress set of courses, at Seton Hall University.

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They measured the heart rate, blood pressure, and self-reported levels of stress for each participant. After reading for 30 minutes, the participants scored significantly lower on the measurements for these variables.[1]

Reading is More Effective than Other Stress Reduction Techniques

When we think of ways to reduce our stress, many of us imagine relaxing and listening to music, or enjoying some other form of peace and quiet. Researchers found, however, that reading is a more effective way to reduce stress than walking or listening to music.[2]

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Reading appears to add another element to typical stress reduction techniques because it requires high levels of concentration. You are unlikely to be distracted by your own worries and thoughts while you are focused on reading. When your mind is fully absorbed in a good book, your heart rate slows and your blood pressure is reduced.

Reading Before Bed Improves Sleep

Not only does reading reduce stress during the day, but it also promotes a better night’s sleep. You don’t need to read for hours either. Reading for just six minutes before bed can help you sleep better. Researchers at the University of Sussex saw a 68% reduction in stress indicators when participants read for just six minutes.[3]

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Instead of texting your friends or scrolling through pages on Facebook, consider reading a novel for just a few minutes before bed. You will be amazed by how relaxed you feel.

Obama Used Reading to Stay Grounded

Researchers and college students are not the only ones to take advantage of the stress reduction opportunities that reading has to offer. Former president Barack Obama also used reading to clear his mind, gain perspective, and reduce his stress during his years in the White House.[4]

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Obama has been an avid reader since he was a child, utilizing books as a way to understand others and ease some of the loneliness he experienced in his youth. During different periods in his life, Obama was inspired by the writings of great thinkers like Ghandi and Nelson Mandela.[5] He also read the biographies of other presidents to remind himself that he was not alone in the challenges he faced.

While the benefits of reading have always been numerous, we can now add stress relief to the list. Whether you want to learn a new skill, understand a different culture, or simply relax after a busy workday, reading will help take you outside yourself. This experience of entering another world outside your own perspective is one of the best ways to ease stress.

So next time you have a particularly hectic day at the office, be sure to schedule some reading time before bed. Your heart and mind will both thank you.

Reference

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Lindsay Shaffer

Freelance Writer, Artist, Photographer

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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