Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Reading – the Ultimate Stress-Buster

Which is the best way to Beat Stress?

·        Listening to music
·        Going for a walk
·        Watching a film
·        Settling down with a cup of tea
·        Playing Video games…

Actually - none of them work as well as reading a good book, which comes out on top in terms of calming frazzled nerves. You only need to read, silently, for SIX minutes to slow down the heart rate and ease tension in the muscles, according to research carried out at the University of Sussex, in 2009. Psychologists believe this is because the human mind has to concentrate on reading and the distraction of being taken into a literary world eases the tensions in our muscles and the heart.

In the tests, listening to music reduced stress levels by 61 per cent, having a beverage lowered them by 54 per cent and taking a walk by 42 per cent. Playing video games brought them down by 21 per cent, but still left the volunteers with heart rates above their starting point. Reading managed to reduce stress levels by 68 per cent.

But isn’t watching TV just as good for stress? Sitting down to our favourite soap or enjoying a film with a box of popcorn? Apparently not, because while we’re watching TV we can still be thinking about other things, including worries and concerns. When we read, however, we have to concentrate more as we follow each word to allow it to make sense. Reading uses more of our brain which in turn helps us to switch off the stressful parts. Reading is more than merely a distraction, but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate creativity and cause us to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.

So does the type of book matter? 

Reading the newpaper may not be the best choice if it makes you feel angry or helpless. Pick a novel with a jacket blurb that intrigues you and makes you want to start reading the story straight away. Or read about an activity that you enjoy - a hobby, travel, cooking – a topic that can help you escape into another world. 

What about Murder Mysteries?

Why would we want to read about crime, when we’re trying to relax?! I think the answer is here:

‘Death seems to provide the minds of the Anglo-Saxon race with a greater fund of amusement than any other single subject.’ Dorothy L. Sayers

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AJ Waines is the author of Psychological Thrillers:  The Evil Beneath and Girl on a Train.
Both books went to Number One in 'Murder' and 'Psychological Thrillers' in the UK Kindle charts.