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Read to Combat Stress

Reading. Something we do every day, in many ways. We read street signs, we read directions, we read texts and emails, we read instructions on everything from setting up a baby crib to how your manager wants you to approach a new project.

As an author, I read all the time. My own work (“that was awful” – delete!), other people’s work (endlessly), even my wine bottle. Ah yes, my new fav is a wine labeled “Well-Read”! I kid you not, the label is a painting of a cozy nook with shelves of books – how could I resist?!

That being said, the thing about reading is that we mostly take it for granted. We acknowledge the usefulness of reading, but that’s about it. And yet, there’s so much more to reading. No, not just in terms of entertainment or newly acquired knowledge, but in terms of your health.

Indeed! Did you know that according to research conducted at the University of Sussex, reading can reduce your stress level by up to 68%? That’s enormous! Not only that, but reading can lower your heart rate and ease muscular tension, which in turn facilitates relaxation. It doesn’t take much. Reading for as little as six minutes will relieve stress. Without any of those pesky side effects various substances/meds come with. You can even read for free! How’s that for a bonus. Public libraries still exist, and remain well-stocked with every kind of literary work.

The question is, what to read to achieve stress relief? Reading the news (online or off) often increases stress, so that’s not a good go-to. Reading what you’re required to study for work/continuing education is rarely pleasurable. No, the kind of reading that reduces stress is more of the fiction variety. A novel that takes you out of your ordinary existence and transports you to another time, another place, another planet, is ideal. A book that doesn’t require too much active thinking on your part, where you can mentally sit back and simply enjoy the characters and their story. Because it is the distraction from our daily cares and woes that provides the stress-relief so beneficial to our overall health and well-being.

Yes, you can certainly benefit from an audiobook, although generally speaking, the written word, whether read on your computer, iPad, e-book reader, or in paperback form, tends to engage more of our senses more completely. Thus a more complete distraction from the everyday.

My personal stress-relief reading is historical fiction. I love being transported to ancient Egypt, Tudor England, or the Italian Renaissance. I enjoy gleaning a bit of historical fact along with the invented characters and situations. Your joy may come from stories of alien empires, fantasy fiction, masterful detective work, it matters not. What matters is that whatever book you pick up/stream, you can slip into that world in your imagination easily and comfortably. And leave that world satisfied once you close the book for now.



Lewis, D. (2009) Galaxy Stress Research. Mindlab International, Sussex University, UK


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