Reading makes you happier

Updated: May 2

Want to be happier? Read a book!

I hear it all the time. When I ask people if they like to read, I always get the same response.

"I don't have the time to read."
I'm just not interested. Books are boring."
Reading books makes me tired."

An overwhelming people might actually be stripped for time. That is completely understandable, but when it comes to having a lack of interest, there is no excuse. With a worldwide breadth of genres, there are so many books out there for everyone.

In the same way that no one person is the same, no one book is the same either. But every bonified book worm will agree on at least one major thing.

Reading can make you happier. Here's why:

It reduces stress

Reading just for 6 minutes can help reduce stress levels up to two-thirds, according to a research study by the University of Sussex. A group of volunteers were given different tests to determine what forms of stress relief worked best. When tested, it was found that reading reigned supreme. It reduced stress levels by 68% compared to listening to music, which reduced stress down to 61%, having tea or coffee (54%), and taking a walk (42%.)

All the subjects had to do was read silently for six minutes. That's all it took. The heart rate diminishes significantly while reading.

It can put you in a meditative trance

Books have been used throughout history as a form of stress relieving treatment called biblio-therapy. According to Ceridwen Dovey, a writer for the New Yorker, one of the first times that the word bibliotherapy was coined was in an article posted by the Atlantic Monthly in 1916. It described a bibliopathic institute run by a man named Bagster.

“Bibliotherapy is…a new science,” Bagster explains. “A book may be a stimulant or a sedative or an irritant or a soporific. The point is that it must do something to you, and you ought to know what it is. A book may be of the nature of a soothing syrup or it may be of the nature of a mustard plaster.”

Essentially, what Dovey is explaining here is that reading has kind of affect on the brain that not only calms the mind but directs it. The words on the page are like directions that reroute brain waves and guides the mind into a relaxed state. This makes it easier for the reader not to get distracted by the outside world so that way they can focus entirely on what's on the page.

It helps you to become more empathetic

According to Dovey, "In 2013, an influential study published in Sciencefound that reading literary fiction (rather than popular fiction or literary nonfiction) improved participants’ results on tests that measured social perception and empathy, which are crucial to “theory of mind”: the ability to guess with accuracy what another human being might be thinking or feeling, a skill humans only start to develop around the age of four."

This is strictly in concordance with literary fiction and not popular fiction. Literary fiction focuses more on the psychology of its characters and their relationships with each other. Popular fiction is more grandiose and action packed which has a lesser effect in terms of helping its readers become more empathetic.

You become more tolerant and less prejudiced by reading

According to Tom Jacobs of the Pacific standard, "A research team from Washington and Lee University reports that, in an experiment, reading a snippet of a novel about a Muslim woman produced two welcome results. Readers were more likely to categorized people as mixed-race, rather than forcing them into specific racial categories. They were also less likely to associate angry faces with disliked outsider groups."

This same research has found that when we are reading a story, our mind engages in the same neural networks that are involved with empathy. For that reason alone, there are a lot of people out there who should definitely consider picking up a book and reading it.

Watch the video below. This is incredibly important to know.