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The unexpected life lessons of literature | self-development

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We all know reading is good for the mind. As Joseph Addison said, ‘Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.’ Anyone with a love of reading knows that to be true. It has the ability to strengthen your mind. It helps you develop analytical skills. And, depending on what you’re reading, it can grow your knowledge. Of course, nonfiction is best for that, but even fiction has educational qualities. 

But, you might not realize the benefits reading holds for your emotional wellbeing. Knowledge acquisition is well and good, but it’s not everything. In fact, many people stop reading once they’re out of school. Why do they need knowledge then, after all? But, if they knew about the emotional benefits, they may not be so quick to give up the pursuit.

 

The main thing worth mentioning is the way reading improves empathy. It makes sense. We can watch television, or listen to music, and gain some understanding of the way other people feel. But, there’s always a wall that stops the understanding developing too far. In no medium, other than reading, do you get such insight into a character’s thoughts and feelings. In many novels, you are quite literally in a character’s head. And, that relationship doesn’t just last for an hour or so. Depending on the length of the novel, it can last up to 13 hours plus. No one would be able to spend that long with a character and not develop an understanding of how they feel. The more books you read, the more extensive your empathy and understanding.

A study by Emanuele Castano revealed that people who read literary fiction showed a marked difference in empathy. It seems this doesn’t work with all reading, though. Participants who read genre fiction and nonfiction showed no notable difference. So, next time you disregard reading, or make a rushed choice, you may want to think again. Reading the right books could, quite literally, help you become a better person. In a world where understanding between ethnicities is at a whole new low, pick up a diverse selection. We could all do with more empathy to people living different lives. Reading is a fantastic place to start!

We can’t talk about books that help your inner-self without mentioning self-help books. This genre has a lot of stigmas attached, but there’s no denying the benefits. A self improvement classic could be what you need to help yourself through a hard time. Or, even just open your eyes to a new way of thinking. We’re living in a nation that shouts loud about the benefits of therapy. And, the majority of self-help books are written by therapists or life coaches. So, why wouldn’t we make the most of them? The cost of a book is a small price to pay for an improved lifestyle! You might want to delve into ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle, which will help you see the importance of living in the moment. Or, you might want to read ‘’The Art of Happiness’, written by the Dalai Lama himself. And these are just two of the many on offer!

To ensure self-help books work for you, know what it is you’re after. The self-help market is huge, and you could find yourself swamped if you don’t have a clear goal. Identify an area of your life you would like to change. Then, find a book that suits that purpose. It can help, too, to pick up books that have been recommended. Like any genre, there are a lot of bad self-help options out there. Picking something a friend has recommended means you’re more likely to find a gem. And, there are many gems out there! It can also help to check the credentials of the author. A book by the Dalai Lama, for example, is a better bet over someone you’ve never heard of. Be warned; self-help is addictive. Once you find one good one, you’ll be on a quest for more . And, you’ll be better for it. They could be exactly what you need to help you out of your rut!

If the self-help path is one step too far, you can still use literature for peace of mind. Reading in itself is fantastic for calming the mind. Think of it as a form of meditation. You won’t need the television on in the evening if you’re reading. And, you won’t want distractions from your phone. Get into the habit of carving out your reading time. Making reading an event like this will ensure you get around to it. It’ll also help you to escape from the stresses of every day. Switch off and enter a whole new world. Your mind won’t even have the option of drifting because it’s concentrating on what’s on the page! This is perfect for people who struggle to settle their mind. It can help you find peace, without having to bring your mind to attention all the time!

The unexpected life lessons of literature

Last, but by no means least, is the fact that reading can help develop your appreciation of the world around you. Authors and poets alike share their unique views of the world. And, those views can often unlock a realization of beauty that you never realized before. Literature plays its role here. Look for descriptive, lyrical prose that describes landscapes you’ve never come across. But, poetry is best for developing an appreciation. The work of poets like Hughes and Wordsworth can create a wonderful sense of appreciation for nature. It’s worth venturing outside after your poetry reading or even taking it along with you. Look at the world through new eyes. Take in the sights, sounds, and smells. Write your own poetry if the mood takes you! An appreciation of nature is sure to help you live a better life. We often focus on the atrocities that take place all around. But, happiness may be as simple as sitting back and appreciating that it’s not all bad!

 

 

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