I have been writing these stress relieving opinions for a few weeks now, and while I was thinking about what to write this week, I realized I have never written about reading as a stress reliever. It’s obviously pretty strange that I haven’t done that yet because reading is absolutely one of my favorite things to do.
There is something inherently relaxing about snuggling up with a book. Maybe it’s the fact that there is so much required reading in our lives with emails, bills, signs, recipes, Facebook, Twitter, etc. that reading for pure pleasure is such a luxury.
Much like some of the other things I’ve written about, like horror movies and escape rooms, reading is a form of escapism. But that doesn’t make the benefits of reading any less real.
According to a 2009 study done by the University of Sussex, reading can reduce your stress levels up to 68 percent. This was after participants had read for just six minutes. “It [reading] works better and faster than other relaxation methods, such as listening to music or drinking a hot cup of tea. This is because your mind is invited into a literary world that is free from the stressors that plague your daily life,” according to an article from Taking Charge of your Health & Wellbeing on the University of Minnesota’s website.
Reading can also help you improve your empathy “reading literary fiction was shown to enhance a skill known as theory of mind, which is the ability to understand others’ mental states and show increased empathy,” according to mercola.com.
People who read, or engage in other mentally stimulating activities, also have a slower memory decline than people who do not. In fact, studies have shown that people who engage in these activities later in life have a 32 percent lower rate of mental decline, according to mercola.com.
The study done by the University of Sussex said that the books you read don’t necessarily have to be New York Times Bestsellers or literary works of art in order for you to reap the benefits of reading. “It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination,” researcher for the study Dr. David Lewis, said.
Using reading as a stress reliever even has a fancy name— bibliotherapy. “Bibliotherapy (a combination of the Greek words for therapy and books) is an expressive therapy that uses an individual’s relationship to the content of books and poetry and other written words as therapy. It has been shown to be effective in the treatment of depression and stress,” according to literacyworks.org.
Reading may not have many physical benefits, but the mental benefits are so wonderful that you really can’t pass it up. Even if you’re just reading for ten or fifteen minutes a day, you can enjoy these amazing benefits. I understand that not everyone just loves reading, but it’s a great way to reduce your stress. And it’s much easier than doing yoga, and much cheaper than doing an escape room.