Swap the Screen for Paper

January 31, 2019


When was the last time you read?   Not your Facebook feed but rather a book, a newspaper, a magazine, instructions…anything?  And did you read from paper or from a tablet?  Seriously, think about it. 


Can you remember?

How about remembering when you were a kid hiding under the covers with a flashlight, just hoping mom and dad didn’t notice you were up past bedtime. 


Chances are, you were reading—just one more chapter, one more page.  You couldn’t get enough back then.  What has changed?

Life has changed.  It moves at an amazing pace and folks just don’t have time to sit and turn pages, right?  Before buying in to that common myth, lets take a look at reality.


Recent studies have found that most Americans over 15 watch an average of 2.5 hours of TV per day during the workweek, while only reading for leisure about a half hour (Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014).  Even further, those 75 and older are reading just one an hour per day but watch 4.4 daily hours of TV.


Big deal, you say?  Not so fast.  Despite common notions, the effects of television (and video games) on the brain have different effects than helping us to relax and unplug.  A study of children found that the more TV they watched, the more aggressive and less verbal they became. 


Similarly, a study conducted the effects on the brain from reading a novel. 


They found increased language and verbal connectivity as well as increased sensory motor skills.  In fact, reading has been found to keep your mind alert, delay cognitive decline and reduce the chance of onset Alzheimer’s by 2.5 over those who watched more television.  And if that is not enough, it has been determined that reading reduces stress levels better than listening to music, drinking tea or taking a walk.


It’s not that books are good and television is bad but rather more about the quantity of each that robs us from benefit.   Perhaps that is why when you read a book, you are called an intellectual but when you binge watch Netflix, you are a couch potato!  Reading is to working out as watching TV is to watching others work out.


Television is designed to be passive and leading—you just watch and everything unfolds without any effort.  It can, in most cases, be superficial.  It is not easy to share details of the character or the surroundings during a TV show or you risk losing the audience interest.  Television is about being entertained and immediate gratification.  


Books, on the other hand, are more proactive.  The reader must concentrate, think and imagine to fill in the gaps left from the lack of visual TV stimulation.  And they can also describe content in great depth.  Instead of just dialogue, books walk the reader through scenes, thoughts and commentary.


If you are now more interested in reading, great news—it is everywhere!  But a few small hints will help you be successful.  Just like anything new, you will be tempted to quit because it doesn’t come naturally and can actually seem hard.  But stick with it because the rewards are limitless.

First, move to another environment.  Don’t expect to read that great novel on the same couch and in the same position as you hold the remote while watching TV.   Find a new place to be comfortable and enjoy the process that is about to unfold.


Next, choose the right type of book.  There are paperbacks, e-books and hardcovers.  You might be tempted to use an e-book, but pause for a bit to consider that it is almost another form of television.  Light from the tablet still interferes with sleep patterns and increases stress and depression levels.  Traditional books, on the other hand, provide a sense of accomplishment as you turn each page.  And, as mentioned before, they reduce stress.


Third, pick the right time to read.  Since this is a new habit you are trying to form, you might want to set aside time on the calendar for it until it becomes natural.  An hour before bed or first thing in the morning—anything that works for you.  Don’t forget about reading while in the airport or onboard a plane or waiting at the doctor’s office.  

Finally, pick out what you want to read.  Don’t worry so much about the New York Times best-selling list.  Find what interests you and start reading about it.


You might think you don’t have any time to read, but that’s because you’re probably spending close to 100 hours a month watching 11 different shows.   Use some of those hours in a different way to expand your view of the world.  Even one hour a day.  Pick up a book.  Read it.  Enjoy it.  Upgrade yourself, your creativity, your imagination, and your intelligence.




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