The skill you learned in kindergarten that can reduce stress fast

How reading for pleasure for just 6 minutes a day can decrease stress by up to 68%.

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Photo by Seven Shooter on Unsplash
Photo by Seven Shooter on Unsplash

File this under “things that seems obvious once studied”, but did you know that reading for pleasure actually reduces stress? By a lot.

Do you find yourself saying: “I wish I read more”, “I wish I had more time to read”, “I used to love reading”?

Well, now it doesn’t have to be such an indulgent choice, because the time you spend reading can actually lower your stress levels. In fact, a University of Sussex study from 2009 found that reading for just 6 minutes a day can decrease stress by as much as 68%.

Why is reading for pleasure such a, well, pleasure?

  • A good book will get you into a flow state fast! If you’ve ever read a book you just can’t put down, you know what I’m talking about here!
  • In this time of quarantine, it’s a way for us to get some (mental) space from those around us, even if just for a few minutes.
  • It short circuits our ability to worry. Multitasking isn’t something our brains can do. If we’re fully engaged in a story, we can’t worry about what’s going on around us.
  • It makes us think beyond ourselves.

Are you someone who thinks you can benefit from meditation, but just can’t make it happen? Try reading instead!

Here are a few ways to get more reading into your life:

  • Join a bookclub (or form one!). Good old fashioned peer pressure can be just the thing to get you back in the habit of reading for pleasure. Ask around to see if anyone you know is in a group you can join. Join an online book club. Or create your own!
  • Time box it. Commit to just 10 minutes a day (or 6!), and pick a time that works. First thing in the morning? At lunch? Before you go to bed?
  • Add it to your calendar. We don’t find time, we make it. If you want to make time for reading, add it to your calendar.
  • Make it convenient. Download the Kindle app on your phone or use the Libby app to access your public library’s content from your phone.
  • Make a micro-commitment. Commit to reading just one page a day. Chances are you’ll read more, but this will take less than 2 minutes and get you back in the habit.

Not sure what to read?

Here are some of my favorite recent reads (that lean towards escapism, because isn’t that what we want when stuck in our houses?):

  • Children of Time – Frustrated with humans? This book contains very few of them. Sci-fi at its best.
  • Best American Food Writing of 2019 – Short, food vignettes, from a range of authors, edited by the amazing Samin Nosrat.
  • Oona Out of Order – Time travel. Light on the science.
  • Where the Crawdad’s Sing – A heart-wrenching mystery.
  • The Power – What if women were the one’s with all the power?

Grab a book, transport yourself to another place for a little while, then come back ready face your life, and the world, a little more easily.

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