It is truly amazing how the simple everyday things in life can bring meaningful and beneficial positivity and happiness in one’s life. I recently finished reading a book, not too long ago, called The Positive Shift by Catherine A. Sanderson, PhD, that reminded me of the importance of this. The author discusses different aspects of life (that can often be overlooked) yet play such a significant role in how happy, content and satisfied we are with our lives. Some of my favourite chapters that stood out and I related to were: reading, disconnecting from technology and connecting with nature and meaningful conversations.
This particular chapter really appealed to me because I love books and from childhood, up till now one of the best hobbies and ways to relax for me is to read a good book whether it is fiction or non-fiction. Reading always makes me happy, puts me in a good mood and stimulates my mind in a healthy and positive way versus social media, where I am scrolling and staring at a screen (yes it is entertaining but no real sense of meaningful or beneficial fulfillment to be honest). I especially enjoy fiction books because I am a visual reader and I always recreate the scene, landscape or description in a book of a certain situation in my mind and I am immediately taken to another place and time. Even with non-fiction, I am learning knowledge and information, especially self-help, that can impact me in a beneficial way. I remember when I was in high school and my history teacher said to me that the best way to strengthen one’s writing skills was to read, to read as much as one could. She said that just by reading more one’s grammar skills, punctuation, vocabulary, the flow of writing (smooth, clear), analytical skills developed improved and developed with time. I always remember this valuable and helpful words of advice from her because they hold much truth in them.
I would like to share some passages from the chapter of the benefits of reading that the author discusses in her book:
Quote # 1:
“Scientific research suggests reading helps us feel connected to other people – even feeling a connection to characters in a book creates a sense of belonging, an important component of happiness. Reading can increase positive feelings, especially if the book inspires you to think about your own life in a new way or to take action toward reaching your own goals” (Positive Shift by Catherine A. Sanderson, pg. 158).
Quote # 2:
“Reading, especially fiction, can improve our ability to empathize with someone else and thus improve our own social skills. When we become absorbed in a novel, we imagine the world through the characters’ eyes, which increases our ability to take on someone else’s perspective in the real world” (Positive Shift by Catherine A. Sanderson, pg. 158).
Disconnecting from Technology & Connecting with Nature:
When it comes to the topic of nature, the benefits are truly amazing for one’s mood, health and overall well being, especially when dealing and alleviating stress and anxiety too. Being in the beauty and calmness of nature brings inner peace, relaxation, fresh air and happiness. Nature motivates one to get out more and adopt a more active lifestyle and incorporating more exercise in one’s daily routine. I agree with the author when she writes how nature cures the negative effects of technology. She couldn’t be more right! Anderson discusses the necessity of taking a technology break.
The negative effects of technology discussed in this book are important and I thought they were well worth sharing below:
Quote # 1:
“Technology is supposed to make our lives easier. But the reality is that technology actually creates considerable stress. As described in chapter 6, Comparison is the Thief of Joy: Environment Matters, technology also takes away time from other things that we know bring us happiness – reading a book, spending time with friends, getting enough sleep” (Positive Shift by Catherine Anderson, pg. 174).
Quote # 2:
“But perhaps most important, the mere presence of technology creates an expectation that we are always available to friends, colleagues, family members and so on. This means that we never really get a break away from the ongoing demands of daily life which leads to considerable stress” (Positive Shift by Catherine Anderson, pg. 174).
Quote # 3:
“Here’s a simple way to increase your happiness: turn off your phone, set clear and specific rules about the use of technology – no phone use after 9 PM, or during meals, or for blocks of time on the weekend, when you really should be spending time interacting with people and relaxing, not checking emails and texts. Limiting your use of technology will decrease your stress and increase the quality of your relationships” (Positive Shift by Catherine Anderson, pg. 175).
Quote # 4: I really like the title of this chapter from where I will share some passages regarding the benefits of nature: “Give Your Brain A Break: Take A Walk Outside”:
“So, what is it about spending time in nature that leads to such dramatic benefits? Our daily life is filled with constant stimulation from phones, traffic, television, and so on. All these events grab our attention. But our brain’s ability to stay focused over time is limited. Eventually, we can become overwhelmed and feel mentally drained; scientists informally call this brain fatigue. In other words, our brains need a break” (Positive Shift by Catherine Anderson, pg. 183).
Quote # 5:
“According to attention restoration theory, spending time in nature provides a cognitive break from all the external distractions we face in our daily lives. Nature settings allow the brain to relax and thereby serve a really important function in helping restore our cognitive capacities. In fact, people show improvements in memory and attention after walking down a noisy urban street. Remarkably. such benefits are seen among those with clinical depression (Positive Shift by Catherine Anderson, pg. 184).
This section of the book got to me the most because no matter how busy we become in our lives, making time for something like meaningful conversations really counts and matters. Meaningful conversations allow us to really communicate and stay in touch with each other versus being disconnected and distanced from one another. What the author has to say here regarding lost connections and the problem we have with communication, nowadays, is really important so I would like to share some of the points she makes from her book below:
Quote # 1:
“This finding that the happiest people engaged more often in meaningful conversations is an especially important one in today’s world, given the heavy reliance on technology as a form of communication. Many people communicate only in brief snippets via texts and tweets. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who is simultaneously sending a text or checking an email? This type of conversation is not a meaningful one” (Positive Shift by Catherine Anderson, pg. 234)
Quote # 2:
“Why do meaningful conversations feel so good? They provide social approval – it feels good when we believe someone likes and respects us. They also allow us to be our real selves, to be authentic. As I described in Chapter 6, Comparison is the Thief of Joy: Environment Matters, many more casual interactions feel less authentic, as we often present an idealized version of ourselves, sharing only the positive things in our lives. But interacting with close people, who approve of us and allow us to be who we really are, feels especially good” (Positive Shift by Catherine Anderson, pg. 234)
No matter how advanced society becomes, especially technologically wise, never underestimate and overlook the significant, beneficial and powerful effects the small everyday things like nature, books, meaningful conversations and more, can have on one’s life because it does, in a positive and healthier way.