Another reason to read and write…

Hi, SEers! Gwen with you today. After learning that March is Brain Injury Month, I thought it might be interesting to share some medical benefits of reading and writing. Before we begin that discussion, though, I’ll digress with a personal story.

In December 2018 I had neurosurgery and in February 2020, just as COVID reared its ugly head, I had my second surgery. Because of an unusual spine disorder, I developed multiple leaks along the spinal dura which ultimately caused my brain to sink into the cervical area of my neck. I know that sounds strange, but it happened. Fortunately, I had one of the best neurosurgeons in the world and a very positive outcome. Prior to the surgeries, I had severe narcolepsy. I could fall asleep midsentence and not remember a thing. I had limited use of my fingers and could only raise my arms slightly. I glimpsed dementia and suffered debilitating headaches. All of this scared me and my family mightily.

After the second surgery, I miraculously could use a fork again. I could speak in sentences. I could stay awake. I could write and feverishly started doing so. I also began researching how I could help my brain recover from the injuries it sustained. And that is what I want to share with you today.

Most of us know that diet and exercise have a positive effect on our well-being. We eat our blueberries and dark chocolate, use turmeric freely and might even drink green tea. Most of us also exercise. These are all well-known gold standards. But what you may not be aware of is that reading and writing surpass these gold standards when it comes to neurogenesis. Reading and writing help keep our brain cells alive.

Studies at Harvard Medical School and other notable institutions underscore the importance of both reading and writing. It turns out that these two practices reduce the rate of memory decline by 32%. That’s pretty amazing, don’t you think?

When we read or write, several regions of the brain are involved in the processing of information to create connections. These connections are what give life to the brain cells and generate more.

Here are a few of the top recommended practices.

  1. Enhance your Mental Stimulation through reading, writing, studying, and researching. What weightlifting achieves for bodybuilders, these mental practices do for the brain by increasing and fortifying the cells. New skills that push us beyond our comfort zone do the same. As we learn, by stretching ourselves with one project or another, we create connections between nerve cells and generate new ones. So when we struggle with a poem or post or a particular chapter in our latest and greatest, we need to remind ourselves that we’re making connections, the really important kind.
  2. Engage in Social Networking: According to researchers, a large network of family and friends and participation in social activities through blogs, zoom, or in person, stimulate the brain and support cognitive activities. In other words, they reduce the risk of dementia. Who knew that keeping an active blog could be so important? Right? But through that simple medium, we establish friendships, learn new skills, and share information. We create a family of sorts.
  3. Free your Inner Child: A favorite expression of author D. L. Finn is to embrace your inner child, and as it happens, researchers have recently studied the benefits of doing just that. They first watched children play in their imaginary worlds and tracked the brain activity. Then they studied adults and encouraged them to let their minds wander freely. What they discovered was an increase in the brain waves coming from the frontal lobe, the area that is associated with creative thinking. With that in mind, if you find yourself dreaming when you’re trying to complete a task, be encouraged. Creative thinking just might follow!  

Before we jump into our camper and head out to write our next best seller, I have a closing thought. When asked if there was anything a person could do to slow down cognitive decline, The Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation responded as follows:

Yes … read more books, write more, and do activities that keep your brain busy irrespective of your age.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling the urge to focus on my WIP. With the medical profession nudging all of us to get busy and write, how can we resist? After all, our brains deserve our attention.

I’d be honored if you’d share your thoughts below. Happy writing and reading everyone!

101 thoughts on “Another reason to read and write…

  1. Pingback: Another reason to read and write… — Story Empire – behindthewhitecoat

  2. Reblogged this on PTL Perrin Writes… and commented:

    Enjoy this great blog post by Gwen Plano via Story Empire! Gwen has overcome some powerful challenges, and shares the proven benefits of something you may love doing as much as I do. If you need an excuse to do more reading and writing, Gwen is serving it up to you here!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gwen, thank you for sharing this! Unbeknownst to me, I’ve been actively exercising my brain and have reduced the rate of memory decline by 32%! This is such great news because I’m in my 70s and have certainly passed the ‘Spring Chicken’ stage of life. Avid reading? Check! Writing? Check! Research? Check! Learning new skills? I designed a website for a group of writers and had to learn how from scratch, just two years ago! I’m taking writing-related courses now, just because. And you have validated all of it, so that those times when I kick myself for tackling yet another project, I’ll remember this article and know that I’m doing something good for myself, even though it feels like I’ll NEVER live the lazy, spoiled life of the retired. You have inspired this old coot, and I’m thrilled that your surgery was a success. I should have led with that. Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. These are all excellent tips. Thanks so much. I fear my husband has early onset dementia but he’s not willing to go to the doctor about it just yet. I’ll keep trying and working on myself in the meantime.

    Liked by 1 person

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  8. Oh my gosh, Gwen, I had no idea that you’d endured such significant challenges, and how wonderful that you had a wonderful surgeon who brought about those amazing results. And yay for reading and writing and puzzles and social networking and learning new things! Exercising our brains is one of the gifts we can give ourselves every day. Now, if only exercising was that easy! Fabulous post.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Oh, Gwen, I’m so sorry you dealt with such a debilitating syndrome. Glad to hear you’re well and thriving now. {{{hugs}}}

    I’ve researched the brain, creativity, and the many other benefits of reading and writing. Though I really enjoyed your post, and appreciated the personal angle. The brain is a fascinating beast, isn’t she?

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I have never heard of your condition before, Gwen, but I do appreciate how debilitating it would be. Thank goodness for your neurosurgeon. I did know that reading and writing and any other types of mental challenges improve your cognitive abilities, memory and almost “grow” you brain. These things make us cleverer. A very good post.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Thank you for sharing your story, Gwen. How frightening that must have been, but how wonderful that you are healthy now! It’s fascinating to learn the benefits of reading, writing, and even blogging. And to think I’ve thought often of leaving WP. Maybe not a good idea now. 🙂 Anyway, thank you for this personal and informational post. Have a good weekend, Lauren 💐

    Liked by 2 people

  12. How fascinating, Gwen! That must have been more than disconcerting to live through and I’m very happy you are up to snuff now!
    Talk about giving me a reason to stop and read and write more!
    Excellent advice!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. My GP asked me just recently why I was locking so young for my age, appeared so relaxed and positive. I pointed out that I practised just what mentioned above for the last forty years, after having suffered a breakdown early in life. I have never looked back since.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. What a fabulous post, Gwen! Thank you for sharing your personal experiences and for all this wonderful information. My brain cells will be in great shape for years to come because writing and reading are passions of mine, and I’ve always been a kid at heart. 😉 Have a great weekend! ❤ xo

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Gwen, I had no idea about your background and health issues. What a scary story. I am so glad everything worked out for you in the long run.
    I have always been a strong proponent of mental stimulation (reading, writing, research, brain games) but wasn’t aware of the statistics you shared. Those make me more determine than ever to stick with all the mental exercise I can—along with my regular physical exercise program.
    Thank you for an eye-opening and educational post!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I can’t imagine what it must have been like just before the first surgery, Gwen. You were so significantly impacted by the damage and you must have also worried about possible negative outcomes from the surgery itself. I had no idea that you’d had two such major surgeries so recently. I’m glad that it all went so well. As for reading and writing, you’ve now given me something to use in my defence when I’m lost in a book or thinking/writing about my own WIP. Thanks! x

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Alex. I’m immensely grateful to the medical teams who worked with me. Any neurosurgery is intricate and risky. I made my peace before each, and now offer thanksgiving for the ability to think, speak, and write. We all get wake-up calls that open our eyes. This was my wake-up call. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Thanks for sharing your story, Gwen. You’ve gone through an incredibly tough time, but it’s clear you’re recovering very well. Thanks for the advice. I’m not sure that I need any extra-motivation for reading and writing, but in case anybody tells me off for spending too much time at it, I know what to say! Take care and good luck with your WIP.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Pingback: #Reblog Alert – Another Reason to Read and Write – Gwen Plano on #StoryEmpire | The Write Stuff

  19. Oh, my dear friend! I had no idea the extent of what you’ve gone through (and recovered from!) in the last few years! I knew you’d had neurosurgery, but not the extent of the problem that warranted it. I can’t adequately describe what reading this has made me feel, but I CAN tell you that even though I already considered you an inspiration, this just kicked that whole designation up about ten notches. Or more!

    First and most importantly, I’m so thankful that you got the excellent surgery and help you needed to recover from such a frightening condition! It would be awful to think of a world without your calm, positive, and inspiring presence!

    Second, thank you so much for sharing what research has proven about battling dementia and Alzheimer’s. I knew keeping my brain active was important, but not quite to the extent you’ve shared. Happily, I do some of these things already. I read every chance I get, every day. And of course, I write and blog as often as I can, and enjoy all my social media friends. I also have always been totally addicted to crossword puzzles and other brain teasers. (I can do the daily jumble in under two minutes usually, and usually have the answer before I’ve unscrambled the letters.) I even do the Word Search, boring as it is, because I think it helps my brain recognize patterns. So, I’m ahead in those areas, though the concussion damage I did to my brain when I fell a year and a half ago still causes me some memory lapses that go beyond the more typical absent-mindedness many of us experience as we age. BUT. The habits I’ve always had of reading, working puzzles, and blogging for nearly 20 years, have definitely helped even with the lingering concussion issues, so I can vouch for their effectiveness. (Nothing has made my hair quit falling out, sadly, but that’s just cosmetic, so I’m not fretting over it. Much. 😀 Who knew concussions could do that, anyway?)

    This post resonates with me on every level, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your story and your research. (Now I must get back to my WIP, and then break for lunch and a reading session, which my friend Gwen, has told me is good for my old brain! I’m on it!)


    Liked by 3 people

    • Oh, Marcia. You’ve brought smiles and delight! 😊 What a journey life is! Had any of us known in advance what we’d face in life, we’d be despondent. Thankfully, we don’t know and then just do the best we can as the challenges arise. Enjoy your lunch and reading session. It’s time for mine as well. 💗

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I appreciate you and you sharing your story, Gwen:) I’m so glad you found that doctor! What a great post showing how important it is to use and exercise our brain just like we do our bodies. Yes, I’m a big fan of embracing my inner child and one way to do that is in reading and writing. Thank you for including that! Good point about our blogs and the blog family we acquire. Great information and post, Gwen:)

    Liked by 2 people

  21. What a scary condition to have! So glad you had such a brilliant neurosurgeon and recovered. Great post about keeping the brain happy and healthy. Isn’t it wonderful we SHOULD be doing what we love to do anyway?

    Liked by 2 people

  22. What a journey you’ve had, Gwen. And the golden words you shared in this blog post are the result of that journey. What modern medicine is able to do these days goes into the miracle category, as your surgeries prove. I love that reading and writing can keep our minds young and healthy. Those are activities I freely and happily indulge in. And, I also love playing word games. I think that helps keep cognitive thinking on its toes. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and the results of your research. Here’s to writing and reading feverishly!

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Thank you for sharing your story, Gwen. We don’t know the effect our words may have on someone else grappling with similar issues. I believe in what the research suggests regarding reading and writing. Since people are living longer, these findings are critical in the battle against dementia.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Hi,
    I am Amening this article because I have narcolepsy and it is amazing what reading, writing, and thinking through complicated computer problems have done for my brain and my body as a whole. My father had it too. He was always falling asleep. It got so bad that he could no longer drive because he would fall asleep. I must admit that I didn’t know about much of the information that you have written because I haven’t taken the time to research it. But instinctively, I go to the fitness center twice a week and work out and I come back elated. Now I know why. I also memorize what I meditate on and bounce it back and forth in my mind during the day.
    Thank you for sharing. Your research has motivated me to do some research myself.
    Wishing you all the best and take care.
    Shalom aleichem

    Liked by 3 people

  25. Wow, Gwen. I had no idea that happened to you. Amazing story and I’m so thankful you recovered.

    I didn’t know about the studies with reading and writing. It does stand to reason that reading and writing do exercise the brain cells. I think I’m challenging mine full force as I go through the edits of my WIP. 🙂

    Great post!

    Liked by 3 people

  26. Your brain sank into the cervical area of your neck? That’s so scary-sounding! I’m glad you had such such skilled doctors and two successful surgeries. I do believe reading and writing are good for our brains. I’m just happy I enjoy doing both.:-)

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Priscilla. I knew nothing of this malady until I experienced it. Thank goodness for the neurosurgeons at Cedars Sinai. They are miracle workers. And like you, I’m ever so happy to enjoy both reading and writing. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  27. Oh my word, Gwen. I was aware of some of your health challenges, but not the extent. I’m so relieved you’ve recovered and made the discovery of the benefits of reading, writing and blogging. Yay! This was a wonderful and inspiring post. Thank you for sharing with us! xo

    Liked by 4 people

  28. Pingback: Another reason to read and write… | Legends of Windemere

  29. Thanks for this wonderful post, Gwen. If I’d known this as a child, anytime I got told off for daydreaming, I could have smiled and said … I’m building a genius!
    These days, I need to do all I can to keep this old brain ticking over. Great points and an inspiring story. I’m so thrilled you’ve come through this so well. Sending hugs, my friend 🙂

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  31. Dear Gwen, I had no idea your health challenges were so steep. It all makes good sense to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones as you have, so inspiringly (is that a word??) Thanks for sharing these pearls of wisdom. No wonder you’ve been so prolific with writing! I’m so happy to hear you have had such a good outcome, despite incredible odds. God bless you with continued good health. Health is everything.💞

    Liked by 4 people

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