Reading Fiction for Stress Relief

Relax with a good read. When it comes to reducing stress, reading does it all.

There are several ways to make time for yourself when daily stress is taking its toll. But what if there was an easy way to escape to somewhere else? Maybe you can’t physically transport to another time or place, but reading fiction can take your mind out of the real world for a short time. Don’t worry if you’re not a voracious reader – it only takes six minutes to immerse yourself in a story and reduce your stress levels. On Monday, start your week off in an entirely different universe before getting into the daily grind!

Research has shown that reading fiction is more effective at reducing stress than listening to music, sipping tea, and taking a walk. In fact, stress levels were shown to be reduced by 68 percent after reading. While your brain is engaged in the story, your heart rate slows down and muscles relax. Because there is so much work for your brain to do, reading is a very effective way to focus your energy and improve your concentration. The act of reading something with a “strong narrative arc” also lasts beyond the time you’re reading. Your brain will actually hold on to the story, giving you something to revisit later. Start reading a new book on Monday and you’ll have a whole new world to hang out in all week!

On top of being great for reducing stress, reading also increases your emotional intelligence and empathy as you get inside the heads and lives of the story’s characters. So, if stress is making you feel a little bit hostile towards people, reading might actually help you be nicer!

The best part about reading as stress relief is that there is no stress in choosing what to read or when. You can take a few minutes first thing in the morning or set aside some time during lunch. Take out a book if you take mass transportation to work, or make reading the first thing you do when you arrive home. Choose something that you truly enjoy and that makes you feel happy and calm. (The newspaper or your social media feed are probably not the best options.)

When you’ve completed your reading, don’t stop there – turn your reading experience into something stimulating. What did you think of the characters? Did you find something in common with them? Would you have done things differently than they did? What about the story did you relate to or enjoy the most? Remember, you’re reading for pleasure – you won’t be tested! This is merely a fun exercise that allows your creativity to blossom while your body takes a breather. The most important thing to notice is how you feel when you’re done. If you’re less stressed, then make more time to read!

A Reading Practice to DeStress:

  1. Choose your own adventure. When choosing your reading material, ask yourself what genre suits your fancy today. Consult your own bookshelf, your local library, or get an e-book from the internet over the weekend – and start reading on Monday!
  2. Find the time and place. You can always drop everything and pick up a book, but by setting aside a few minutes and designating a place to read, it will be easier to escape into your story.
  3. Focus, focus, focus. Don’t listen to music, don’t read with the TV on, don’t read with other people around. Make it the only thing you’re doing – this is your time.
  4. Don’t move on just yet. After reading, dedicate a few more minutes to letting what you read sink in.

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