How Does Reading Reduce Stress? Is it efficient?

How Does Reading Reduce Stress

The fact that reading is an amazingly beneficial activity is well known. From health benefits to acquiring invaluable knowledge with minimal effort, there is quite a lot for readers to enjoy. One of the things reading has become notoriously appreciated for these days is the amazing way it can help us relieve stress.

With stress being a global problem in our lives, having a solution that is as effective and accessible as reading has become invaluable. But how does reading reduce stress? 

Here at Basmo, we have dedicated quite a lot of time and energy to finding all the necessary information to provide you with a clear answer. If you need some extra motivation to start reading a little more, we can think of no better reason than relieving stress to get on with it right now. 

Does reading reduce stress?

The short answer is yes. Reading does have a positive effect on the level of stress we experience. But what exactly is stress? 

By its definition, stress represents any change that has a negative physical, emotional, or psychological effect. It is the way your body tries to point out what aspect of your life requires immediate attention or action. The response to stimuli that put a strain on physical, emotional, or psychological well-being differs from one person to another, but the stress itself can be categorized as follows:

  • Acute stress
  • Episodic acute stress
  • Chronic stress

The negative effects of stress range from occasional headaches to high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiac problems, skin conditions, depression, anxiety, or even asthma and arthritis. Considering that stress is a global issue that affects a huge percentage of the population, integrating healthy reading habits into your wellness routine can be a great solution.  Reading can be a very effective stress-relief tool for all the above categories and it can help you overcome a great deal of stress-related problems. 

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Why reading reduces stress

Even though reading for stress relief is clearly a good strategy to relax and avoid the possible negative effects stress can have on your general well-being, it is always a good idea to understand how and why it works. Being aware of the reasoning behind it can give you an extra boost of motivation to stick to this amazingly healthy habit. 

Reading can reduce stress through a series of mechanisms and figuring out how it works is going to make you want to pick up a book right now.

One thing you should know right off the bat is that reading is most effective in relieving the symptoms and negative effects of chronic stress. 

Acute stress, as the name suggests, is a burst of adrenaline and stress hormones in your brain that has a clear and tangible cause. It lasts for a couple of seconds or minutes and it goes away as suddenly as it sets in. To put things in perspective, an example of acute stress could be the minutes right before taking an exam. Chronic stress is the process of worrying an entire semester about upcoming exams. 

Acute stress makes your heart beat faster, your palms sweaty, and your breathing shallow. Chronic stress affects you in more indirect ways: you sleep less and more poorly, you’re constantly in a bad mood, your blood pressure increases, and you find it hard to focus on anything because your mind is busy constantly worrying about the thing that stresses you out. 

While for acute stress episodes your best bet would be breathing exercises like boxed breathing or meditation, reading works wonders for chronic stress. Here’s why.

Reading helps us disconnect

Probably the most effective way for us to relieve the symptoms of stress is to remove the stressors from our lives. But, as you know, that is not always possible. A stressful job for example, even though it is an inconvenience, is still a necessity. Therefore, we need to settle for the next best thing in terms of relaxation, which is to simply take our minds off of what stresses us.

Here is where reading is extremely effective. Especially when reading fiction, we allow ourselves to get immersed in imaginary worlds and alternative realities where our problems simply do not exist. We read about the adventures of the characters, we experience what they experience, and we disconnect from our day-to-day lives for as long as we keep our heads buried in the book. 

Reading has meditative qualities

On top of being a distraction, reading engages our minds actively. We use our imagination to fill in the blanks (visualize the setting of the book, how the characters look, and try to recreate the action in our mind’s eye), our creativity receives a boost, and we essentially enter an altered state of consciousness. 

Reading helps us access states of mind that provide experiences quite similar to mindfulness and meditation. 

How much does reading reduce stress?

According to a study conducted in 2009 by Mindlab International at the University of Sussex, reading can reduce stress levels by 68% in just 6 minutes. The study showed that reading is actually more effective in reducing the symptoms of stress than taking a walk (42% reduction), drinking a cup of tea (54% reduction), or listening to music (61% reduction).

As you can see, that is quite significant. The way reading disconnects us from reality and pushes us into a meditative state that allows us to relax and forget about the stressors makes it an invaluable tool for our mental health and general well-being. 

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Track the books you read, monitor the time you spend reading and keep notes on your reading habits and how it makes you feel. You can set yourself targets for the time you spend reading and you can get notified whenever you’re behind on your reading time. 

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How does reading a book reduce stress?

Let’s dive into what actually happens to your mind and body when you are reading and how it actually reduces your stress levels.

Reading reduces blood pressure and heart rate

As we know, one of the reasons why stress is a huge risk factor for our health is the fact that it increases our blood pressure and resting heart rate, which, in time, can lead to more serious cardiovascular problems.  

30 minutes of reading have been found to lower blood pressure and heart rate, according to the same study performed by the University of Essex in 2009. Whether that is directly related to the fact that it reduces stress as well is still unknown, but the important thing to remember is that reading can work wonders for your mental and physical health.

Helps us sleep better

A rested mind can cope better with the difficulties of our daily lives. Being constantly tired can quickly make us feel overwhelmed by our daily routines and chores, so a good night’s sleep is essential for maintaining our mental and physical health in the fast-paced environment we live in. 

Luckily, a very simple solution for improving the quality of our sleep and the actual rest we are getting every night is to pick up a book and read before going to bed. Research has shown that 42% of the people who participated in the study felt an improvement in their sleep quality after picking up the habit of reading before going to sleep.

One possible explanation for this is the fact that reading helps us relax, relieves muscle tension and reduces blood pressure and heart rate. Falling asleep with a relaxed body and mind is certainly going to improve the overall quality of our sleep.

On top of this, reading keeps us away from other entertainment choices at our disposal. Watching TV or looking at our phones exposes us to blue light, which triggers a response in our brain that is completely inappropriate before falling asleep.

Helps with anxiety and depression

According to a recent study, reading has been shown to help alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and burnout. The study focused on the effects of reading during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the results are undoubtedly confirming that bibliotherapy is a great aid for our mental health in general. 

Stress and other mental health conditions are strongly connected, but it is not always clear what the causality relationship is between them. In some cases, stress leads to other mental health problems, while in others it is the other way around. 

Reading can be a very effective form of therapy and can seriously improve your mental state

Reading helps us cope better with reality

Reading makes us more empathetic, according to one study, by exposing us to a plethora of fictional stories, providing us with insights regarding the way certain characters think and act in tough situations. Reading helps us keep an open mind and has a positive effect on our emotional intelligence and our ability to understand others.

This makes it infinitely easier to deal with the stress of our daily lives. By helping us become more understanding and open-minded, reading can significantly reduce the number of stressors that are affecting our well-being on a daily basis. 

Read more with Basmo

As little as 20 minutes of reading per day can help you enjoy the full benefits this amazing activity can provide for you, including the way it can relieve stress. Reading more is sometimes challenging and here at Basmo, we understood that a long time ago. Our reading tracking app is the ultimate tool for modern readers and we take great pride in the fact that it will push you to become a much more dedicated and efficient reader.

Basmo helps you organize your reading

With Basmo, you can easily structure your reading habits to achieve better performances.

Scheduling your reading sessions can help tremendously, and our app’s features include a flexible and easily customizable scheduler. You can select the days of the week when you want to read and different times for each session to work around your other routines. The app will also remind you of any upcoming sessions through gentle notifications.

Basmo tracks your reading performance

You will always have access to your own performance details through Basmo.

You can see how many minutes you read every day, how quickly you read, how many books you’re read in the last year and a lot more. That way you will always know where you stand so you can figure out ways to improve yourself.

Basmo encourages you to set reading goals

Whether you want to micromanage your reading habits and make sure to read for a certain number of minutes every day or if you want to focus on the bigger picture and read a certain number of book every year, Basmo has you covered!

Select the goal that fits your preference (or use both) and select the right values. The app will track your progress and will display it in a pleasant way to keep you constantly motivated.

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Final thoughts

Reading does reduce stress a lot more efficiently than other activities. It is important to take full advantage of this amazing benefit, so make sure to use Basmo to achieve your maximum performance.


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