The Mental Health Benefits of Reading for Pleasure

In today’s fast-paced world, taking time to read may seem like a luxury we can’t afford. But is it? What are the benefits of reading?

Research shows that reading is not just a pleasurable pastime, but also a powerful tool for maintaining good mental health. From reducing stress to improving cognitive function and promoting empathy, reading can have a tremendous impact on your well-being.

Here’s what can reading do for you.

Reading Improves Sleep

Reading in bed is a great habit that can help you relax and calm your mind, which can help your body get ready for sleep.

Nowadays, everyone spends far too much time in front of a screen, from TVs to smartphones. But according to research, screen time before bed might influence your sleep for the worse. It affects your circadian rhythm, which is your body’s internal clock, decreasing melatonin production and making it more difficult to fall asleep.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends we stop using electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime and choose a book instead.

This will signal your brain that it is time to sleep, increasing helpful melatonin production.

Reading Reduces Stress

Reading, especially fiction, may be an effective way to relieve stress. Fiction books provide a wonderful gateway to another world, helping you release tension and distract your mind from daily stresses.

More than that, fiction books are engrossing. They focus all your mental activity on the story that unfolds from page to page.

Studies have shown that reading may reduce the amount of tension in your muscles and slow down your heart rate, which can help you
relax and unwind.

Sounds trivial? Check this out: reading was shown to lower stress more effectively than listening to music, sipping a hot beverage, or even taking a walk. According to a study conducted in 2009 at the University of Sussex, reading for as little as 6 minutes can lower stress levels by up to 68 percent.

Reading Helps Alleviate Anxiety

Anxiety is the brain’s reaction to prolonged or intense stress. It sends your body into emergency mode. When that happens, the body creates stress chemicals that prepare you to fight or flee (“the fight or flight” response).

Unfortunately, ongoing or excessive stress doesn’t allow your body to recover after such a reaction, creating emotional distress and leading
to various anxiety symptoms.

You can escape the stresses and concerns of everyday life by immersing yourself in a captivating book. This can have several beneficial effects, including:

  • Boosting your mood
  • Lowering your blood pressure
  • Slowing your heart rate
  • Relaxing your muscles
  • Reducing irritability and feelings of fatigue
  • Diverting your attention from negative thoughts
  • Alleviating other symptoms of anxiety

Reading Books Helps Emotional Processing

Want to keep your mind healthy and get along well with others? A great way to start is to learn to recognize, name, 
and understand your feelings.

Reading encourages emotional processing by creating a safe context for you to explore emotions. It helps you understand and accept your feelings, which leads to better emotional regulation and boosted empathy.

From the earliest age, reading fosters emotional literacy, which teaches us to recognize, understand, and act on our own and other people’s emotions in a healthy way.

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