Reading For 6 Minutes Reduces Stress By 68 Percent

Written by Jim Folk
Written by Jim Folk
Last updated June 23, 2021
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Want a natural way to reduce stress by 68 percent? Read.

A 2009 study by the University of Sussex researchers found reading for as few as six minutes reduced stress by as much as 68 percent.[1]

The researchers also found that reading reduced stress better and more quickly than other methods like listening to music (a 61 percent reduction), drinking tea or coffee (a 54 percent reduction), or going for a walk (a 42 percent reduction).

Researchers believe the concentration of reading a good book helps distract the brain away from anxious and stressful thinking, which reduces heart rate and muscle tension caused by stress.

Reading also engages the imagination and stimulates creativity, which engage the brain’s prefrontal cortex areas that house the “anxiety brake,” an important part of the brain that shuts off the emergency response.

Dr. David Lewis, a cognitive neuropsychologist who conducted the study 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.”

So, if you want to quickly reduce anxiety and stress by helping the brain shift out of emergency response thinking and into rational thinking, pick up a good book and start reading.

Keep in mind that it will take time for the body to calm down from an active stress response. Once stress hormones are in the bloodstream, the body will need to either use or expel them before you can feel calmer.

If you don’t feel calm right away, give it more time. As the body uses up and expels the remaining stress hormones, you will feel calmer overall.

As you feel calmer, the fear center of the brain (amygdala and others) becomes less active and the rationalization areas of the brain (cortex and others) become more active. This shift in brain function can empower the “anxiety brake,” giving you more control over-anxious thinking.

As your body calms down, you’ll feel calmer and more in control.

Reading a good book is a great way to reduce anxiety and stress. The more interesting the book, the better the effect.


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The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist, coach, or counselor is the most effective way to address anxiety and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed – which we call the underlying factors of anxiety – a struggle with anxiety unwellness can return again and again. Dealing with the underlying factors of anxiety is the best way to address problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and coaching/counseling/therapy for problematic anxiety and its sensations and symptoms, including Reading For 6 Minutes Reduces Stress By 68 Percent.

References

1. “Reading Can Help Reduce Stress.” Telegraph. 2009. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/5070874/Reading-can-help-reduce-stress.html