Reading for Stress Relief
In today’s world, we are bombarded with information, signals and different factors that increase our stress levels. We are working more than ever before in human history and we need a way to unwind.
Reading is and always has been a powerful tool, to help enlighten and educate us it is a great way to relieve stress and improve mental wellbeing.
A study conducted by the University of Sussex in 2009 found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68%, better than music and a walking which reduced it down by only 61% and 42% respectively. Even our famous cup of tea only lowered them by 54%.
Dr. Lewis, who conducted the test, said:
“Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation.”
“This is particularly poignant in uncertain economic times when we are all craving a certain amount of escapism.”
“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.”
“This is more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.”
How does it work?
Reading works by slowing the heart rate down and easing the tension in the muscles.
It takes the individual only six minutes of silent reading to get to this point, and the study even found that subjects got to lower stress levels than before they started.
What are the benefits?
The benefits of this are numerous, there are countless reports and anecdotes of people achieving success through reading. But recent studies have shown how this can benefit mental health and wellbeing.
A report published by The Reading Agency in 2005 found that the benefits of reading included increased empathy, better relationships and reduced symptoms of depression.
In 2013 a National Books on Perscription was started in England. In its first year, it reached over 275,000 people with book based therapy for common mental health conditions.
Since its launch, it has been endorsed by the medical profession with GPs, mental health professionals, and government ministers supporting it.
Carole Speakman, Reading Well Books on Prescription user, says
“It was really useful to take the book home and work on it in my own time. The fact that it got me doing some of the exploration and understanding work made me feel as if I’d got some control back. I found myself looking forward to reading it. The library staff were wonderful. Whilst I was there, I mentioned I was in the dark ages with my computer skills. The librarian signed me up to classes there and then.”
How to set me up to succeed?
We know reading can be difficult for some and a hard habit to start but we have some pointers on how to give yourself the best chance of success.
- Choose a subject that interests you, it doesn’t have to be a book on the “best seller list”, it just needs to provide you space for your mind to relax.
- Make sure you enjoy what you are reading. If you pick something that upsets or winds you up like the news, you won’t get the same benefits. The right novel can help you escape to another world. Alternatively focus on a hobby such as cooking, camping or travel.
- Start small, aim to read for 10 minutes a day and build up slowly, trying to read for an hour when you’re not used to it can seem daunting.
- Reflex on how you feel after finishing reading if you feel more relaxed continue with the same book. If not try another book, you may need different subject matter. We have listed some of our favourites below.
- The Ancestors Tale: Richard Dawkins
- The Hunger Games: Suzanne Collins
- Start with The Why: Simon Sinek
- The Chimp Paradox: Dr. Steve Peters