Health & Wellbeing

Reading & Continuous Education

Lesson 8 Module 4

People often read, during difficult times, to escape from their current reality. It is a great and a very helpful tactic, depending on what's going on in their lives and what they are trying to escape from.

This lesson urges you to approach reading and learning in a more purposeful way. I don't read to escape from my situations. I read to figure out how to deal with the situation I am in. Reading became one of the most powerful influences during my years with kidney disease, especially while on dialysis.

I felt so lost, at times, going from being a sports and fitness student and competitor to a dialysis patient, I really needed inspiration and motivation. I couldn't get it from study and college, as I had lost interest in this. Friends didn't understand the mental fog I felt, the shock, maybe depression, I was going through on being told I had kidney failure, at 20 years old. So especially in the early days of dialysis I found reading not only a refuge from the noise and endless technicalities of dialysis, but also as a path to a life with meaning and purpose.
The reading material that facilitated this was non-fiction especially biographies, initially. No fiction. Yes, fiction would have taken me ‘out of my mind’ for a while, but the difficulties were still right there waiting for me. Through reading biographies I saw that the most famous people in the world, from sports stars to successful business people to world leaders all went through, and overcame, massive odds. They all had challenges. They all made sacrifices. They all went through what the Spanish Mystic John of The Cross called “the dark night of the soul”. This was how I was feeling, I was going through mental and physical turmoil due to kidney disease. And what the books I was reading did was to normalise these difficult times, by showing that they are part of life. I wasn't the only person suffering, everyone suffers, at some point. Knowing that suffering, difficulties and challenges are part of the ebb and flow of life actually gave me comfort. It is heartening to read that when you face adversity and battle through it you can then strive to find growth, well-being and success on the other side. You begin to see adversity as a necessary step to learn more about yourself.
I feel that way now, 20 Years later, but, at the time, just to see others come out the other side of adversity gave me great hope. I was at the bottom of a hill at that time and I could not see the top.

Benefits of Reading
Unquestionably there are many benefits to reading including diversion, delight and distraction. But as mentioned earlier, I seek to learn, rather than seeking entertainment and escapism. For this reason, I always found it key to read with a pen in hand to underline or write out what I saw as striking, useful or interesting.

When finished, I  recommend writing out and saving all the underlined sections, thereby saving the points that have resonated with you. After a few months you will have a treasure-trove of knowledge, wisdom and inspiration at your fingertips tailor-made for you, by you.

Rather than watching TV and learning that Chandler, from the "Friends" sitcom, has a 3rd nipple, you will have useful, actionable and inspirational material!

Benefits, in relation to health and well-being, include decreased depression and anxiety, lower blood pressure, lower stress and reading is credited with keeping the brain young and slowing the rate of cognitive decline.

Examining the list, you realise that reading can have a positive impact on your health. Several of the benefits stated above are actually issues those of us with kidney disease face and seek to overcome.

Benefits for a Patient

Through reading, you gain knowledge on your own health issue. We spoke earlier about accepting responsibility for your illness. When illness strikes, remaining passive and just lying there being acted upon is of no benefit. Healthcare practitioners need patients to take an active role in their own treatment.

Why? To help understand your condition better, to verbalise effectively how you feel, to understand the medication and any implications. If you strive to take ownership of your care, and you should, you need greater knowledge and you need a vocabulary. Reading helps with this.
It can also decrease dependency on others and allow you to become more involved in the decision making process. Essentially you are acting for yourself rather than being acted upon. An important distinction.

Sounds empowering, right? It should be. It is your body being acted upon and doing everything you can to aid in improving your health has to become a priority. In this way reading around your particular health issue and learning from others is both valuable and useful in promoting better health outcomes.

Reading helps us to glimpse the realities and possibilities that lie out there for the mind, body and even the soul. Reading shows us what's possible and shows us our potential capabilities. Not only that, once we learn what we want and need in life, it can teach us how to make that a reality.

So take action and start moving more of your reading from pleasure to purpose, because continuously learning is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves. Let reading be your greatest teacher.

And if you don't know what to read, what to start with, leave a message at the bottom and myself and other course participants will point you in the right direction.