Whether your favorite is a fantasy-filled adventure through the world of Harry Potter, a brisk run through a crime-mystery novel, or a long tome of Russian experimental literature, scientists have found that the simple act of reading for pleasure can actually reduce stress levels.

Scientists from the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress levels by up to 68%. 

Researchers compared the stress levels of research subjects after they indulged in many different relaxing activities: reading, listening to music, drinking tea, taking a walk, and playing video games to name a few. While listening to music was also especially beneficial for reducing stress levels (up to 61%), none of the activities promoted as much stress relief as reading. Playing video games, in particular, was only found to provide a 21% reduction in stress. 

Reading may be able to reduce stress levels because it allows people to “escape” their own thoughts and stresses, and focus on a new outside literary world. Reading can also provide people with a fresh outlook on their own situation or help them get a better perspective.

After reading for only six minutes, study participants noted slower heart rates and lessened muscle tension. 

For those who do read for stress relief, it’s important to read those things that you actually enjoy. Reading the news or a book about another emotionally charged subject could raise your stress levels.

Likewise, don’t read books that you don’t actually enjoy just because they’re a “best seller” or come highly recommended from a friend. Instead, find a trusted source for book reviews to find your own favorites. Sites like GoodReads.com generate recommendations for new books based on the ones that you’ve already enjoyed. Other sites, like BookRiot.com, provide recommendations from a wide variety of book bloggers.

Do you read to reduce your stress levels? What are your favorite types of books? 

Image by Viviana Calderon via Flickr


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