Over the years, how to tackle stress has become more and more of a modern problem.
There are a number of remedies out there, some of which work very well and others which are nothing more than snake oil. But what if you want to beat stress without resorting to medications or visits to the doctor? There may just be a way in a form that’s part of the fabric of our society: reading. That’s right – by taking the time to shut the world out and immerse yourself in a fictional world, you can actually tackle the stresses and strains of modern life. In fact, studies show that just 6 minutes of reading a day is enough to achieve results. Let’s look into this in more depth.
Hard proof of the benefits of reading
Back in 2009, a group of researchers at the University of Sussex took it upon themselves to test out the effect of reading on stress levels. The reason for doing so was simple: first-hand experience would indicate that because we need to concentrate all of our effort on reading, it should have the side effect of reducing our worries. The study looked at the both the stress levels and heart rate of the volunteers through both rigorous exercise and then a number of classic relaxation techniques, including reading. The study concluded that reading for as little as 6 minutes was enough to bring the stress levels in the volunteers down by a staggering 68%. In addition to reading, other means of stress reduction had the following results:
- Going for a walk reduced stress by 42%.
- Playing a video game reduced stress by 21%.
- Listening to music reduced stress by 61%.
It’s clear that whilst all of these measures had some impact, reading is the one that comes out on top, with a close to 70% reduction.
Why is reading so effective at stress-reduction?
When looking at why reading can be such a great way to reduce stress, it’s important to look at the processes happening inside the body and mind. As you read, your entire focus shifts from your internal monologue (your problems, stresses, etc.) to the fictional (or non-fictional) world that you are reading about. Even though you’re not physically going anywhere, the engaging of the imagination is able to divert the brain’s thinking in such a way that it creates a ‘gap’ of sorts in which the mind can enjoy some down-time from its worries. Funnily enough, these same concepts are used in the practice of mindfulness meditation, which aims to bring the person’s mind completely into the present, and off the past or future worries it may be pre-occupied with.
Ready to get your head into a book?
If you’ve been suffering from even mild stress, it might just be a good idea to pick out a book you like, make a cup of tea, sit back and immerse yourself in it. There’s a very good reason that reading remains such a popular pastime – and now science is backing it too, so there’s nothing stopping you.
Now where did we leave that book?
Written by Simon Morris
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