There’s no doubt about it, stress and anxiety are fast becoming the largest and most wide spread epidemics this world has ever faced.

Today people worry about many things – mortgages, job security, car maintenance, diets, the future, the past, health issues, aging, finances, and much more.

The American Psychological Association reports that “Most Americans are suffering from moderate to high stress, with 44 percent reporting that their stress levels have increased over the past five years.” That’s an incredible number and proves that we are headed in the wrong direction fast!

But what can we do about it? I mean, it’s not like stress, anxiety, fear, and worry are just going to suddenly up and leave us anytime soon just because we don’t want them in our lives anymore.

Better Stress Relief

An image of a stack of open books

The truth is there are many stress relieving techniques that work well. It has long been proven scientifically that listening to music, taking a nice walk in nature, enjoying a good meal and conversing with friends, exercising, and even watching a good movie can all work to reduce stress levels.

However, according to a report in the UK newspaper, The Telegraph, there is another, better way. In that article, Dr. David Lewis, a cognitive neuropsychologist, said that reading for 6 minutes can reduce stress levels up to 68 per cent. A 68 per cent reduction in stress levels… this is huge! He believes that “Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation.”

With that said, this doesn’t mean just any old reading will do. Reading through your bank statements, the road signs on the way to work, and recent posts on social media will more than likely not have the same effect as taking the time to just sit and relax by reading a book.

Scientists believe that reading a book such as a novel can cause the reader to escape their daily grind and leave their worries behind.  When reading a good book, one can delve into a world that is far removed, sometimes markedly so, of daily stressors and worries.

What Should I Read?

An image of a woman looking at shelves of books in a bookstore

If the reports are true and stress can be relieved by up to 68 per cent, one question remains, “what type of book should I be reading?” Well, that’s entirely up to you. Ask yourself, what kind of book relaxes me, calms me, lets me unwind? If you can lose yourself in the pages of a romantic drama, then read something in that genre. On the other hand, your poison (pun intended) might just be a murder mystery, a thriller, or even horror.

A post on the University of Minnesota website suggests three important guidelines when choosing a book to read.

  1. Choose a book that you are interested in and will provide a safe space “for your mind to relax in.”
  2. Choose a book that won’t upset you. Instead, choose something that you will enjoy.
  3. After reading, pause to note down how you feel.

In reality, there really is no right or wrong book to read. It’s up to you to pick a novel that you think you’ll be able to escape into and enjoy reading. The real test comes once you’ve finished reading. How do you feel? Are you still stressed or has the stress abated somewhat?

The wonderful thing about reading is that there are many opportunities we can take to pick up a book, even if only for a few minutes. For example, you could read a chapter or two on the way to work or school (assuming you’re not driving), during a lunch break, when you would otherwise be checking social media or playing a game on your phone, or during your down-time in a comfy chair at home.

Give Reading A Try

An image of a woman sitting on a couch reading a book

The hard truth is that sometimes the stress, anxiety, fear, and worry in our lives will only ever be properly dealt with in a professional environment with a trained counsellor, pastor, or therapist. It may take a job, health, or life change before we begin to escape from under the pressures of it all.

However, if nothing more, reading can reduce stress levels and help us feel better for at least a while. And perhaps if we make a daily habit of reading, we might find that we are well on the road to having less stress in our lives.