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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 January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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