The Rewards of Reading


Lose yourself in a good book and boost your overall well-being

I’m an author. I’ve written 2 full length books with a 3rd in the works and several more in the concept stage. There is also a work book related to my day job and all these blog posts. I write about 500 words a day and I endeavor to read about 1 book a week.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that I consider reading to be an essential part of everyday life.  It’s basic to communication, via email or text message, paying bills and even navigating traffic. But did you know that reading for personal enjoyment and learning is not only a good form of low-cost entertainment, but it also brings with it a whole host of other benefits? Here are some ways reading can have a positive impact on your life.

It sharpens the mind

Regardless of your age, the more you expose your brain to information the better it can learn and remember. Research by Live Science.com, has shown that neurons in the brain have the ability to change structurally in response to new experiences. Reading ranks as the number one activity we can do to promote ongoing improvement in our knowledge, vocabulary and intelligence. Keeping our brains active engages our mental pathways, potentially reducing the risk of cognitive decline in old age and could even prevent dementia. In fact, a recent study from Prevention.com found individuals who frequently participated in intellectual pastimes over the course of their lifetimes had an approximately 32 percent slower late-life cognitive decline than those who didn’t.

It reduces stress and improves well-being

In the constantly connected and always on world of today, finding an effective way to slow down is highly important. Enter reading. A summary report from Canada’s National Reading Campaign notes that among traditional relaxation strategies, reading ranks as number one. Curling up with a good book has been proven to reduce stress levels by as much as 68 per cent. And it doesn’t take a lot of time either. According to the report, it only takes six minutes of reading to effectively slow your heart rate and ease tension in your muscles.

Reading has been linked to other positive physical and social effects as well. Book readers are 28 per cent more likely than non-readers to report very good or excellent health, and 15 per cent more likely to report a very strong satisfaction with life.

Social benefits exist for fiction lovers as well. There is evidence that reading fiction helps to promote empathy, boost self-esteem and improve social skills. When you identify with the emotions of a novel’s characters you are activating the same areas of the brain that light up when you experience real-life issues.

It helps children succeed in life

Parents who read to their children positively influence how much their kids like to read. Reading for fun enhances comprehension, vocabulary and attention span, and increases children’s confidence and their motivation to read throughout their lives.

Reading levels among youth are also a key indicator of future success in both education and life. A report by Statistics Canada found that those in the top reading levels in junior high school are up to 20 times more likely to attend university than those in lower reading levels. A similar study indicated that children with higher reading skills went on to have higher incomes and more professional roles in adulthood.

So, why not pop in to your local library or bookstore and see what catches your interest. You might be pleasantly surprised to discover a page-turner that you just can’t put down – plus a rewarding endeavor that is oh so good for you!

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

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O Come, O Come Emmanuel


“… and ransom captive Israel.” [author unknown]

I have mixed feelings about Christmas.

I love the overarching narrative of the original Christmas story. God became man to show us a better way of living. He used unexpected circumstances to come into the world and announced his arrival to religious outcasts. He subverted both the religious and political establishment and grew up in relative obscurity until the time came to establish his ministry.

manger

Over the centuries many religious practices and traditions have been established to help cement the significance of these events in our minds. We sing because the angels appeared to the shepherds in song;

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:

Glory to God in the heavenly heights,
Peace to all men and women on earth… [Luke 2:13-14 The Message]

We give gifts because the Magi came bearing gifts fit for a king;

They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh. [Matthew 2:11 The Message]

And we get together with family and friends to celebrate, worship and eat because really what else are we going to do with all that food?

All of these things we do at Christmas are good things. But I have mixed feelings about Christmas because as Timothy Keller so aptly put it;

Idolatry means turning a good thing into an ultimate thing. [Timothy Keller; Every Good Endeavor, Connecting Your Work to God’s Work]

For many, even for many Christians, Christmas is no longer about the birth of a savior. No, Christmas stopped being about salvation and God’s rescue mission for humanity, a long time ago. Now the good and fun things about Christmas, the singing, the gifts, the family and friends have become all there is. As a result the Christmas season itself has become an idol. We worship the season without giving a second thought to the significance of what God has done as a result of coming into human existence.

I make no secret of the fact that I can be an emotional person. For a forty something year old man I cry a lot and I don’t care who knows it. Last Sunday my wife had a panic attack about all the things we needed to do in order to be ready for Christmas. The list was endless but not a single thing on her list had anything to do with celebrating our salvation as a result of the birth of Jesus. While she cried about buying gifts and baking cookies and doing laundry I remembered the words of a 12th century Christmas song and I quietly wept for everyone who is caught up in the idolatry of Christmas.

O come, o come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depth of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way the leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times did’st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

We’ve made good things into ultimate things and lost site of the only true thing, and I weep for our loss. This Christmas please join me as I pray the words of that ancient hymn;

O come, o come Emmanuel…