Read to relax (here’s why it works)

I don’t know about you, but I’m the kind of person who thrives in a calm, quiet environment. I have friends who crave hustle and bustle. They love it when their home is crowded with noise and people.

Not me.

I tire easily at parties. My mommy fuse is quick to blow when my kids are playing around wildlike and at top volume. I get a little blue when my calendar is crammed with this and that.

It’s no wonder that I love to read. It’s the perfect hobby for someone like me. A solitary space. A circle of quiet. A story to escape into.

I read to relax!

But did you know that reading is “scientifically proven” to reduce stress? (I have to put “scientifically proven” in quotes because I can’t personally vouch for the science, of course, and, really, who knows?)

Neva-theless, in 2009, researchers at the University of Sussex found that six minutes of reading—just SIX minutes—reduced stress by as much as 68 percent.


Reading worked better and quicker than listening to music, drinking tea, and walking.

Why is reading SO relaxing? Even more than those other activities?

Here’s one possibility: It requires the mind to do work.

Wait, what? How can work be relaxing?

Hear me out. Because the brain is busy reading, it doesn’t latch onto anxious thoughts as readily. Reading activates the imagination, which switches on the prefrontal cortex in such a way that it stops the body’s emergency response (or so I’ve read).

As a result, your heart rate goes down. Muscles relax. Your body burns through the remaining stress hormones in your system, and voila. Calm.

Dr. David Lewis, the cognitive neuropsychologist who conducted the study said, “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.”

It sure sounds to me like he’s referring to fiction—an enchanting story, a riveting narrative.

Now, if I’m reading something that scares or annoys the crap out of me, then I’m definitely NOT relaxed after. (I’m talking terrible Tweets or troubling news articles.)

But, if it’s a story, then I’m usually good. It relaxes me, even if it’s intense or heavy. And reading before bed is THE best prelude to slumber. When I read before bed, I go out like a light. (I always regret looking at my phone before bed—even with my blue-light blocker thingy.)

How about you? Does reading relax you? If you suffer from anxiety, does it offer any relief? Leave me a comment with your best reading relaxation routines.

More along these lines…


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