With stress levels at an all-time high, there has never been a more critical time to look for relief than now. And there is a way to relieve stress that is educational, enjoyable and healthful for the mind.
With many options out there, we could all use new means of reducing stress levels.
Reading provides many benefits, and it means putting down your phone for a few minutes and focusing on something else. So we are going to look at how reading reduces stress.
Reading is on the decline, but there is an active call for people to read more. Since studies show that reading reduces stress, it is something that you should consider if things are getting on top of you.
Reading should be something that you enjoy. Whether it is a magazine or a mystery novel, pick a topic that will keep you turning pages. Reading enjoyable material makes it easier to maintain reading as a habit.
Check out our review on Blinkist to see how you can read more with book summaries.
How Does Reading Reduce Stress?
Let’s Start With Some of The Statistics
- The Reading Agency found that reading reduces depression and dementia symptoms.
- Reading for Six minutes a day reduces stress by 68 percent.
- Regular readers show lower rates of depression compared to non-readers.
- Reading is 300 percent more effective at reducing stress than going for a walk.
The study conducted by the University of Sussex found that reading is one of the most beneficial ways of reducing stress.
It found that reading is more effective than drinking a cup of tea, playing video games, and listening to music when it comes to alleviating stress.
Reading was found to slow down heart rate and even relax muscles. These physical reactions make reading similar to meditation, which is well known to reduce stress.
In the modern age, where the pace of life is so fast, and there are so many distractions at every turn, finding something to promote a level of calm is essential.
The New Yorker article we referred to earlier advises the following:
‘’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.’’
They also comment that regular readers sleep better. Since stress.org advise that too much stress can lead to a bad night’s sleep, which in turn results in various other health issues, using reading to reduce stress could be a viable solution.
What Reading Does For Your Brain
We have looked at how reading provides a feeling of calm, but what does it do for your brain?
Emory University (2013) found that reading a novel can affect your brain for days after reading. It looked at what neural effects reading had on 21 students for 19 days.
These students were given the book ‘’Pompeii” by Robert Harris to read. They underwent regular MRI scans during a resting state. The study found that those who participated ‘’showed heightened connectivity in the left temporal cortex,” a link to how receptive we are to language.
The mental stimulation that comes from reading helps preserve brain cells. Preservation of cells can help stave off Alzheimer’s and ensures that you regularly use your brain in a way that helps keep it fit.
Various studies have shown that people who do not stimulate their brain regularly are more likely to suffer from mental illnesses. Reading might be just one way of keeping your mind stimulated, but it is one of the most effective.
Since depression is often the result of a lack of mental stimulation, reading for stress relief is a great idea.
The stimulatory benefits don’t end there, though. Alzinfo.org tells us that reading protects our brain regarding memory and is one of the better ways of keeping your mind from suffering mental illnesses later in life.
Alzinfo also refers to a study by Robert S. Wilson, at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. This study discovered that those who challenged their brains through activities such as reading slowed their rate of mental decline.
Why Is Stress Relief Important?
It seems like a no-brainer, reducing stress levels.
While we are all different, and all come from backgrounds with our unique take on the world, stress is something that anyone can suffer from, at any time. It doesn’t matter if you are a student studying for exams if you have just lost your job, or something has upset you more than usual, it can affect anyone.
The problem is the more stressed you are, the more susceptible you are to stress-related illnesses. These include the likes of heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, and depression among others.
The benefits for your brain are plentiful, and this is the same for your overall health.
Stress has links to more than half of all illnesses, which put a strain on not only your body but also your wallet. The medical costs from stress-related diseases are enormous.
Bupa.com.au says stress can affect your health in other ways as well.
They say it can lower your immunity. You are more likely to suffer from illness if you are stressed as your body does not have the same capability to fight it off.
The same resource also advises that stress can result in comfort eating, as well as drug and alcohol abuse. These can all have a severe effect on your health, making stress relief even more significant.
Other issues that can be caused by stress include increased anxiety and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
So Reading Can Improve Your Health?
If you are thinking about reading for stress relief, then this is an added benefit.
Because it can reduce stress levels, reading helps protect your body against serious results that come from stress. Reading has even been found to reduce the likelihood of someone getting a headache.
Choose A Book That Grips You
We recommend that you read something that grips you and can keep you coming back. A page turner is going to help you to keep the habit of reading going.
A magazine, on the other hand, will help you keep to the recommended minimum of six minutes of reading a day but doesn’t necessarily help with forming a habit.
The type of book you choose is down to personal choice and is all subjective. If you don’t already have a favorite author you enjoy reading, then thinking about the genre you like the most will help.
Even if you are one of the many people who never read, think about the type of movies you like to watch, and this should give you a good idea. Whether it is sci-fi, romance, mystery or fiction, stick to what you are most likely to enjoy.
Better still, ask a friend for a recommendation, or ask if they would like to read the same book. If a friend recommends a book, it can give you the motivation to stick to it and can also help to create some interesting conversations.
Joining a community is another good way of maintaining the habit. If you can find a book club in your local area, not only does this help keep you accountable and make sure you keep reading, it enables you to find people with mutual interests as there are often book clubs specific to various genres.
The time spent conversing with other people can also help to reduce stress.
Choose a Quiet Environment
An article on The University of Minnesota’s website advises taking 30 minutes every day to read in a quiet area where you will be free from interruptions.
They also provide a few tips on how you can get started that includes picking the right material to read. Some content can stress you out even more than you already were.
If you find that the news can increase stress levels, then it might be best to stay away from a newspaper when committing to reading for stress relief.
The same article also says choosing a novel that helps you escape to another world is a good idea. Another significant outtake from the article was that you should monitor how you feel after reading. Sometimes it can be hard to alleviate stress, even by reading, so take stock of how you feel after your dedicated reading time.
The type of content you are reading or the environment can affect how often you read. Do what you can to make the experience as enjoyable as possible.
To get the stress-relieving benefits of reading, you need to make sure you do so in a calm environment and one without distractions.
You are not going to get the same benefits if you are picking up your phone every few pages and you might not be able to concentrate in the same way with the radio playing in the background.
It might be necessary to make sure you are not reading in an area with anyone else around. Conversations can be distracting, and you want to make sure you can get into a flow.
Reading Takes You Away From Reality
The fact is, your current circumstances might be what you need an escape from.
If your life feels stressful, then you could probably do with the relaxing escapism that reading provides. Your anxiety can feel all-consuming and hard to escape from, which is why reading is so beneficial to stress.
It allows you to be taken away to a different time, land or even city and can give you some time living in someone else’s shoes for a while. When you get truly lost in a good book, you forget about your worries for a while.
It might be just for a matter of minutes, but when life is tough these minutes matter.
Reading Can Give You Some Perspective
You might think that your life is hard right now, but sometimes when you read about other people’s experiences, it can help to make you see that things aren’t so bad.
The character you are reading about might go through a great deal of grief that, when compared to your circumstances, is a lot worse.
A character’s challenges can change the whole way you look at your life. Reading reduces stress while you read, but can also help to alleviate it altogether.
When you are feeling stressed, you need the tools to alleviate your worries.
It is clear that reading contributes to calm feelings, both mentally and physically. As the previously mentioned study mentioned, it can start with as little as six minutes a day to make a real difference. Before you know it, you will find it hard to put a book down.
Forming any habit can be challenging, but one that can help improve the quality of your life is surely worth investing in. It should be even easier to do when you start to read in genres that you already like.
Reading can significantly reduce stress, which will have a positive impact on almost every aspect of your life. It is one of the easiest ways of getting away from it all for a while. The hard part is getting started.
Master this, and you may find that you can master stress.