Forget the Treadmill – Take a Bubble Bath!

You’ve heard that exercise alleviates depression.  Well, it turns out that taking a hot bath works even better!

A new study found that taking a hot bath twice a week can significantly lift your mood – more so than exercise. It has to do with altering the body’s temperature and circadian rhythm. Plus a hot bath is more appealing for some folks than an arduous sweat-filled workout. (Acupuncture, massages, and hot showers by the way also release endorphins – as does laughter!  So maybe laughing your head off while soaking in a hot bath might be the medicine for chasing away the blues!)

You can also read in the tub and thereby escape the grasp of that incessant cell phone.  No cable news. No email. No political ads. Just you in sudsy bliss in the company of a great book.

And speaking of books, C.S. Lewis famously said, “We read to know we are not alone.”    Reading is an additional antidote for depression whose best friend is isolation.

What are Joy and I reading these days, you ask?

We highly recommend Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. It’s light reading and it makes you smile, even chuckle. It’s on Reese Witherspoon’s list and may soon be a movie. That gives us the opportunity to envision who might play the characters we have come to know. It’s an account of growth and courage;  reinforcement that we are not alone. Reading a book such as this is like being invited into someone’s home you don’t know and hiding behind the curtains as they tell their story.

A word about book clubs… I (Joy) am finding that if I have to convince myself to read the book, perhaps I should come up with my own selection! On the other hand, book clubs force us to read something outside our usual genre.  If it’s a good discussion group, maybe a probing question or two might be raised and debated.

 

So run that bath, grab a book, pour a glass of vino, light a candle. Bubbles add another dimension to the overall experience.  Now that we know the heat of the bath is key, make sure it’s hot before you get in.  I hate tepid anything!  Turn on music.  Music soothes the soul and it puts us in the mood to relax. Think of it as water therapy.    Close your eyes and indulge.

Who had time for a bath pre retirement?!!

And in the immortal words of L’Oreal, “You’re worth it!”

Today’s Takeaway…

. Be open to exploring new ways to relieve stress, anxiety, depression. If all it takes is a dunk in a hot tub and the world’s problems melt away, why not?  What’s the worst that can happen?  Shriveled toes and fingers! No prescription needed!

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay & Joy

 

Check out The Great American Read for more bathtub books!

 

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Reading as Therapy – The Healing Power of Books

I love that moment after you’ve trudged through the first 20 pages or so and you are abruptly grabbed wholeheartedly by a book.  It robs you of sleep.  It keeps you from vacuuming and dinner may be late. Your email inbox is bloated to the point of rudeness or job threatening but will go unread, knowing full well it can’t compete.

You are on a journey to places, times, experiences – cathartic and transformative – where no plane will ever take you; you are empathizing with characters far from your sphere.  You can’t put the book down yet you dread the inevitable – that last turn of a page marking the end of your journey when you bid farewell to characters who have shared  their innermost thoughts with you.

But their voices may still ring in your head, some for the remainder of your days.  Perhaps it’s 6-year old Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, or Wilber pleading with Charlotte, or Holden Caulfield, or for me most recently, the haunting prose of Tara Westover from her memoir, Educated.

In an article called Your Brain on Fiction, The NY Times says, “The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated.”

So reading grants us new experiences and increases our ability to empathize.  But here’s something you may not have known about the benefits of reading (I didn’t) — books are a therapeutic tool.  It’s called “Bibliotherapy”. There’s even a list of titles used as prescriptions for different ailments such as depression, apathy, fear, grief  (The Novel Cure).

In her 2015 New Yorker piece, Can Reading Make You Happier?, , tells us that  reading improves our mental health.  And some of us, she says, have been self-medicating our whole lives. “Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers. ”

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Reading can also be a social affair.  My book club features all the important ingredients — zero pressure to have read the book, ample wine and food, and fun conversations usually unrelated to the book itself.  We have covered many different genres and most have been page turners.

So now that we retired Baby Boomers have more time to read, how should we pick books?

PBS just aired a show called The Great American Read. with Merideth Vierra who “takes viewers on a journey across the country to uncover the nation’s 100 most-loved novels.”   Chosen by a national survey, these books are featured with descriptors and endorsements by authors, celebrities, and regular book lovers.  There are 6 shows to be aired that will dig deeper into book themes and why we love this diverse list.  There’s also a Facebook page where people like us share and recommend titles.  (By the way, lest you think this is a high-brow list, 50 Shades of Grey made the cut right alongside War and Peace, and is not a tad embarrassed.)

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Also, PBS Newhour has joined forces with the NY Times Book Review to form an online book club called Now Read This.  They select a book per month and post discussion questions on Facebook.  You can also ask questions of the author who appears on the PBS Newshour at the end of the month to be interviewed by Jeffrey Brown.

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So let’s get lost in a book.  And not feel a bit guilty about doing so!

Oh the places we’ll go!

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Today’s Takeaway –

-If you’re like me, you have an annoying tendency to forget what you read! (Scary)  I recently started a google doc with titles and brief summaries.  This will hopefully prevent me from reading the same book twice!

-Find a fun book club if you don’t already have one.  Look for those key ingredients – no pressure, wine, food, friends.

Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

Want to take the quiz (below) and see how many of the 100 books you’ve read?  You don’t have to share your results!  I’m certainly not going to share mine!

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