OPINION: The Magic of Words and Their Powerful Benefits

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Christina Delgado
CONTRIBUTOR

Reading can introduce you to a new world of pleasure, magic, and imagination. Graphic by Hailey Stessman/The Gateway

I used to be one of those people that would constantly complain about reading, saying things like “I hate reading.” “I can’t stand reading.” On the other hand, writing was something that I loved. It wasn’t until I had a moment of realization that I questioned my “hate” for literature. I was tapping on my computer’s keyboard, as something hit me. My fingers hovered over the keys as a question made its way into my mind. “How can you love to write, but hate reading?” I think what scared me at that moment was the constant wonder of “How can I ever improve my writing if I don’t enjoy reading?” These thoughts made me stop typing overall as I sat on my little desk in my room and had no real answer to that former question. That’s when I realized that I had never given reading a fair chance. “Of course I have,” I told myself and then started listing all the books I had read during my life, which were deduced to be a bunch of classics or mandatory readings at school, that of course I ended up not being fond of. It wasn’t until I picked up the novel Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez at Barnes and Noble that I fell in love with reading. This is a love story set in the 20th century that deals with love and its many phases throughout the years. The novel introduces the character of Florentino Ariza who at a young age professes his love to Fermina Daza, but due to prejudices and many obstacles are separated by distance and time. When Fermina’s husband dies, Florentino attends the funeral with a sole purpose. After 50 years, nine months, and four days of confessing his love to Fermina, he is ready to do it again. While reading Márquez’s eloquent and beautiful written words a sense of calm and peace settled in my life as I started to incorporate this incredible love story as a daily routine. His words inspired my style of writing and gave me a push to continue to my next book. Maybe finishing that first book was more of a personal challenge than the mere act of reading to enjoy it. However, the feeling of accomplishment I felt after I flipped the last page and closed the book was what propelled me to grab my next read. Soon enough, reading became a daily habit and a way to forget about the stress and things that bothered me during the day.

Because reading benefits our brain by stimulating it, which results in the reduction of stress, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or anxious because of certain classes, instead of grabbing your phone and checking social media consider grabbing a book and reading for a few minutes. According to the author Debbie Hampton in her article published for The Best Brain Possible, she wrote that in a 2009 study, reading reduced stress levels by as much as 68 percent, which was more than listening to music, having a cup of tea, playing video games, or going for a walk. Also, reading does not only reduce stress by relaxing our mind but also our physical body. An article published by the website Self Development Secrets stated that a study done by the University of Sussex discovered that reading was found to slow down the heart rate and even relax muscles. These physical reactions make reading similar to meditation, which is well known to reduce stress.

Furthermore, incorporating reading into our daily lifestyle builds our vocabulary and expands it while enhancing our life and our career in a powerful way. However, sometimes when people think about reading they immediately think about the books they were forced to read in school, just like I did. They are transported back in time to those days when reading William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens was imposed on the student (trust me I didn’t enjoy them either). Because of this, many think of reading as a chore. However, the reality is that reading should feel like a fun activity. It is the time for your imagination to travel to other places and eras as you simply forget about life around you and instead, focus on the letters that are dragged together and put into sentences as your eyes roam the page.

Another amazing outcome, if we make reading a daily habit is that we will be strengthening our brain, which can result in helping us fight mental diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Dr. Alan Castel who published an article on the website Psychology Today wrote that there was a study done that proved that remaining an avid reader into old age reduces memory decline by more than 30%, compared to engaging in other forms of mental activity. Meaning those who read the most will have the fewest physical signs of dementia.

It is important to understand that when I say people should consider reading more because it has many benefits I mean it in a way that it is enjoyable while at the same time taking advantage of these perks. Therefore, people should read things that they enjoy and find entertaining. Whether that’s a book, a magazine, or even a newspaper, the important thing is to establish a daily routine so that these benefits can be effective. So, remember rather than spending hours on your cell phone checking social media, maybe grab a book and let the words do their magic. Who knows? Maybe you’ll fall in love as I did.

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