Why Read? Reason #3: Reading Can Reduce Stress

Buddha reading

Stress is the trash of modern life — we all generate it but if you don't dispose of it properly, it will pile up and overtake your life. ~ Terri Guillemets

We all have stress. Work stress, financial stress, emotional stress. Stress is part of modern living. Some people reduce stress by sleeping, meditating, eating healthful food, and exercise. But one of the best ways is bibliotherapy* and has been since antiquity. Inscribed over the door of the ancient library at Thebes was the phrase “Healing place for the soul.”

Scholar and mythologist Joseph Campbell explained that stories give relevance and meaning to our lives and that “… in popular novels, the main character is a hero or heroine who has found or done something beyond the normal range of achievement and experience.” Reading about the hero’s journey in myth and literature can create a more mature — and better — version of oneself. The simple act of reading a novel, then, can give us a psychological shot of courage, encouraging personal growth while reducing anxiety.

And now science is proving the mythologists, authors, and librarians right. Mindlab International (University of Sussex) conducted research confirming that reading was one of the most effective ways to overcome stress, beating out listening to music, exercise and even naps.

Study researcher Dr. David Lewis 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."

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”  ~ James Baldwin, American author (1924-1987)

* Bibliotherapy (a combination of the Greek words for therapy and books) is an expressive therapy that uses an individual's relationship to the content of books and poetry and other written words as therapy. It has been shown to be effective in the treatment of depression and stress.


I like work. It fascinates me. I sit and look at it for hours. As I've always said: Hard work never killed anyone, but why take the chance?

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