People are more health conscious these days than they have ever been. It seems everywhere you look there is some miracle treatment for anything that might ail you in life. In reality, one of the best things you can do to boost your health is simply reading a book.
In 2009, Mindlab International, a consultancy based at the University of Sussex, determined that reading was the most effective form of stress relief when compared to typical stress relief methods. The study was done by putting participants through a range of tests and exercises to increase stress levels and heart rate. Then the participants engaged in typical stress relief activities like listening to music, walking, playing video games, and reading.
The results showed that reading for just 6 minutes reduced stress levels by an average of 68%. In fact, in most cases, stress levels were lower than what they were before the test began. By comparison, listening to music reduced stress levels by 61% taking a walk reduced stress by 42%, and playing video games reduced stress by 21%.
Dr. David Lewis, who conducted the study, concluded: “Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation. This is particularly poignant in uncertain economic times when we are all craving a certain amount of escapism.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.This is more than merely a distraction, but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.”
One major thing to keep in mind when it comes to reading is not just THAT you read, but HOW you read. Research has shown that reading a tablet before bed can actually lead to an increase in the symptoms of insomnia. Reading an actual, printed, physical book is the key. A recent study in Norway showed that people who read on a Kindle were significantly worse at remembering what they read over people who read printed text. Anne Mangen of Stavanger University, concluded that “the haptic and tactile feedback of a Kindle does not provide the same support for mental reconstruction of a story as a print pocket book does.”
Mangen thinks that the difference for Kindle readers “might have something to do with the fact that the fixity of a text on paper, and this very gradual unfolding of paper as you progress through a story is some kind of sensory offload, supporting the visual sense of progress when you’re reading.” Her theory is based on the fact that our brains weren’t really designed for reading, but have adapted to understand letters and text.