Literature invites us into a
fictional world that can be a wonderful escape from our daily tasks and stressors. When we read, we create a beautiful stillness between us and words on the page. As much as we college students don’t want to read for our leisurely activity when we have so much required reading, it is a proven fact that reading is the best and fastest way to calm nerves. Picking up a book for pleasure, even for just six minutes, can be enough to reduce our stress levels by more than two thirds. 1
Cognitive neuropsychologist Dr. David Lewis found that reading reduces stress levels by 68 percent, as compared to listening to music which reduces levels by 61 percent, having a cup of tea or coffee, which lowers stressors by 54 percent or taking a walk, which lowers stressors by 42 percent. 1 Psychologists “believe this is because the human mind has to concentrate on reading and the distraction of being taken into a literary world eases the tensions in muscles and the heart.” When we find the time to relax during college, what matters is how we define our priorities rather than our capabilities. We could either flip on the television or reach for a book, but if we are searching for the key to ultimate relaxation, studies suggest the ladder.
From my own personal experience, I have found the correlation between reading and relaxation to be true. Three years after spending far too long trying to fall asleep, in my senior year, I discovered that reading before bed, something I had done before college, is my antidote. A mere fifteen minutes of reading is all I need to feel the soporific, ataractic effects.
If you don’t see yourself seeking the company of a friendly book, but you want to set aside the worries of life for a little, you could be read to. This sounds childish and odd and I am not suggesting you ask your R.A. to read to you after a stressful day… but there are other alternatives. Bucknell offers many poetry and fiction readings throughout the semester. Last night, I attended Bucknell’s Stadler Center for Poetry to hear an exceptional fiction writer and poet, Mark Brazaitis, read aloud his award-winning prose. His enrapturing imagery, impactful anaphora, and enchanting metaphors allowed the audience to easily enter into his character’s world and forget about our own. And, by stimulating our senses, he adds to the creation of our alternative existence. For example, he spoke of how the “night radiates with brilliant indifference,” with the “the moon blazing above,” and how the fur was “like the leather of her father’s jacket.” I never have felt so relaxed in those uncomfortable wooden pews.
I believe that this is the time that we, as 18-22 year olds, need literature the most. Unfortunately, this is also the age that we highly neglect leisurely reading due to our other habits of relaxation and our hesitation to read for pleasure instead of for work. Yes, reading helps us relax and unwind but the benefits extend far beyond this. Literature expands our world view and perspectives and allows us to reach a deeper understanding of ourselves, helping us grow morally and ethically. However, that is a whole different topic, so for now, reap the benefits of reading as you lose yourself in the dusty pages of a long, lost friend.
Next readings at Bucknell (located at Stadler Center for Poetry, also known as Bucknell Hall):
October 6, 7 PM-8 PM: Harold Schweizer and G.C. Waldrep Poetry Reading
October 26,7 PM-8 PM: Paula Closson Buck Fiction Reading