Try This Instead of Meditation

Light blue background with a teen girl holding open a yellow book in front.  She is wearing a black t-shirt, has black hair pulled into a ponytail, and has her mouth open, looking shocked.  To her left, "try this instead of meditation" is written in bright yellow.

We hear so much about the benefits of meditation, but as teens, many of us don’t want to try it.  However, there is another activity that has similar benefits.  It’s well-known that meditation has countless benefits for our mind and body; including gaining a new perspective on situations, clearing your mind, increasing self-awareness, reducing negative emotions and stress, focusing on the present, increasing creativity, and more.  However, there is another activity to try instead of meditation, that for some of us might be more enjoyable and easier.  It also comes with many of the same benefits as meditation!  What is this activity?  READING.

It’s true!  Although it affects your brain slightly differently than meditation, reading brings many of the same benefits.   See the image for some of the many benefits of reading vs meditation, and see how many are the same or very similar. 

Watercolor background with a white table in the middle.  On the table "reading vs meditation" is written on a pink banner.  Below, on the left side in the reading section, here, listed in bullet points it says "reduces stress, lowers blood pressure & heart rate, improves empathy, improves memory, helps sleep, boosts imagination".  On the right side, below 'meditation', in bullet points it says "gains a new perspective on situations, lowers blood pressure & heart rate, reduces negative emotions, focus on the present, helps sleep, increases creativity." At the top of the table is a women in a white and red striped top, black hair in a ponytail, pointing the the 'vs' sign.

WHY?  What is going on inside our brain while we read?

While we are reading, many different things are happening in different parts of our brain. A number of studies have been done to exactly understand the mechanics of the brain and its operations. If you are interested in the exact science, click here. However, to keep this article brief, the most important thing we need to know is that while we’re reading, our brain is synthesizing a lot of information.  This results in it understanding different emotions plus providing us with other benefits.  

Teen girl sitting by a window reading a book.  She is wearing a navy and white striped sweater, and has curly brown hair.

For example: 

Memory Boost: While we read, our brain processes different words and sounds, increasing  our brain activity, which leads to a better memory, and a wider word bank. 

Empathy: Our brains can literally put us into the shoes of the characters we’re reading about in our book.  What does this mean?  Reading activates the motor and sensory cortices, which are responsible for movement and touch.  When we read about a character who is running, neurons (cells in our brain) in that particular area activate, and we feel like we are running too. In fact, according to scientificworldinfo.com, “It seems that the brain does not differentiate much between reading about an experience and practicing or witnessing it in life. In both cases, the same nerve regions are stimulated.” Because we are able to feel the same way as a character, it allows us to feel a greater sense of empathy. 

Stress Relief: Similar to what we wrote earlier, another study found that 30 minutes of reading is just as relaxing as 30 minutes of yoga.  BONUS: another study found that six-minutes of reading per day lowers stress by around 68%.  Just six-minutes! This is because while reading, you dive into another ‘reality’, clear your mind, and are distracted from current stresses. 

These are just a few of the many things going on inside our brain while you’re enjoying a good book, magazine, or other form of reading.

Overall, reading is a great alternative to meditation, and is easier to do in a wider variety of places such as in the car, airplane, school, or while sitting on a coach.  The next time you can’t sleep, or are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, try reading! According to healthline.com, reading anything brings benefits to your brain so try a new book, or continue reading a current one, try a sport or travel magazine, poetry, or maybe comics, anything that you find interesting. Dive into reading and distract your mind from the stress of the world.  

We hope that the next time you feel stressed, or your mind feels ‘loud and busy’, you try reading, and it gives you a small bit of happiness.  


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