Feeling stressed? You’re not alone. Stress is an inevitable part of life that affects us all from time to time. The good news is that reading is an excellent way to help relieve stress naturally. But how much reading do you actually need to do to reap the stress-reducing benefits?
According to research, it may not take as long as you think. In fact, you may notice a difference in your stress levels after reading for just 6 minutes.
The Power of Reading for Stress Relief
Multiple studies have shown reading has powerful stress-reducing effects. For example, a 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that reading for just 6 minutes could reduce stress levels by 68%. Participants who read had lower heart rates and reduced muscle tension compared to those who listened to music or sat quietly.
So why is reading so relaxing? Experts say there are a few reasons:
- It distracts from stressful thoughts and daily worries. When you open a book, you disengage from the stressors around you and immerse yourself in a different world. This mental break gives your mind a chance to relax.
- It slows breathing and heart rate. Reading requires focused attention and concentration. This regulates our automatic physiological stress responses like rapid breathing and heart rate.
- It provides an escape. The imaginative worlds books allow us to visit act as a form of escapism from our own problems. This gives us psychological relief from stress.
- It promotes mindfulness. Reading forces us to be present in the moment instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, which are major triggers for stress.
Of course, the specific amount of time needed to reduce stress levels can vary from person to person. But research indicates even short reading sessions under 10 minutes can make a difference.
How Long You Should Read to Relieve Stress
Most studies on reading and stress relief have found positive effects after 6 to 10 minutes of reading per day.
For example, a 2016 study from the University of Sussex had participants read for just 6 minutes. They found it lowered stress levels by 68%, even more than other relaxing activities like listening to music (61% reduction) or going for a walk (42% reduction).
Another study published in the journal Cognition and Emotion in 2009 found that slow or leisurely reading for just 6-8 minutes could provide significant stress relief. Participants who read short passages from a book reported feeling more relaxed and less tense.
Based on this research, aim to read for at least 6 minutes when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. Even short reading sessions can help calm your mind and body quickly. You may notice more profound effects after reading for longer periods of 10 minutes or more.
Tips for Reading to Relieve Stress
Keep these tips in mind to make the most of reading for stress relief:
- Choose page-turners. Opt for books in genres you find riveting and engaging to help distract you fully from stress.
- Read slowly and leisurely. Don’t rush through – a calm, relaxed reading pace offers the most benefits.
- Make it a daily habit. Reading for stress relief is most effective when done consistently rather than once in awhile.
- Find a cozy spot. Curl up in a comfortable chair or spot where you can read undisturbed.
- Unplug from technology. Avoid digital screens which can counteract relaxation. Stick to print books.
- Time it right. Read when you tend to feel most stressed, like before bed or after work.
- Try audiobooks. Listening to a narrated story can also transport you and release stress.
Fit Reading into Your Routine
Reading doesn’t have to take up huge chunks of time to be helpful for alleviating stress. Even as little as 6 minutes of reading per day can make a difference.
Consider keeping a book with you and reading for short bursts throughout the day – on your commute, on your lunch break at work, or while waiting at appointments. Just a few minutes of reading here and there can add up to a major stress relief boost.
Along with other proven stress management techniques like meditation, exercise, and talking to friends, making reading part of your daily self-care routine is an excellent way to keep your stress levels in check. Be patient and give it a try for a couple of weeks. Before you know it, you’ll start to feel calmer, more relaxed, and better equipped to handle stress.