It can take us to exotic lands, with powdery white beaches and clear azure skies. It can take us back in time—even to prehistoric days—or forward to the Big Brother world of the 25th century. It can fill our eyes with tears or make us laugh aloud. Reading opens a window to the world, giving us a vision of things we never dreamed possible. But, though you might not realize it, reading can also reduce your stress level.
For one thing, reading can help with problem-solving, which, in and of itself, can relieve stress. Say you are overweight, and that is contributing to your stress. It seems that the more weight you gain, the more stressed out you become, and the more you eat. By reading books about good nutrition, you can learn to plan meals that are low-cal and low-fat. As a result, your weight problem might disappear—and your stress level will be greatly improved.
Reading can also be relaxing. When you curl up with a good book, you put the rest of the world at bay. You take time out to travel to distant worlds, to learn about different time periods, and to expose yourself to out-of-this-world philosophies. You are essentially taking a vacation of the mind—but one that can be relatively cost-free, especially if you live near a library.
Reading can be a source of great hope, which can also help to relieve your stress. Through biographies, you can read about famous people and learn how they overcame their struggles. These stories of triumph might inspire you to seek ways to overcome the challenges in your own life. Inspirational books can send your spirit soaring, enabling you to accomplish things you never dreamed possible.
Of course, there are instances when reading can raise your stress level. For instance, if you are studying for a test, or reading about tragedies in your local newspaper, you might find your stress level skyrocketing. That is why it is important to be choosy when it comes to your reading material. If you're feeling stressed, pick up a book that will relax you—perhaps a travel book, a cookbook, or a book of poetry. Resist the urge to read something that could simply make you feel more troubled.
Self-help books are particularly effective in helping to reduce stress. They allow you to explore your feelings and the triggers that lead to stress. And they recommend such techniques as listening to soothing music, playing a musical instrument, playing cards, or engaging in deep breathing in order to deal with stressful situations.
Or you might buy a book to learn about a hobby that can further reduce your stress. Perhaps it's needlepoint, woodworking, or crochet. It may be origami, calligraphy, or stenciling. You can learn how to refinish furniture, paint, renovate your kitchen, or redecorate your bathroom. You can either build upon a skill you already have, or learn a new one from scratch.
It has been shown that reading novels can relieve depression, so it should come as no surprise that such an activity can also reduce your stress. When you read a novel, you travel to a distant place, metaphorically speaking. This allows you to use your imagination freely as you try to picture characters and settings. It's a wonderful escape from the pressures of everyday living, and can allow you to return to your life feeling more refreshed.
Reading also forces you to concentrate—concentration which might be otherwise lost due to stress. As a result, you learn to exercise your mind—an exercise that can bear much fruit. Thanks to your reading, you may notice you find it easier to remember things which can, in turn, reduce your stress level.
If you find that you don't like to read, you might start with graphic novels. These comic book-like creations might appeal to you because of their interesting pictures. Or you might simply start with glossy magazines. In the long run, it doesn't matter so much what you read as how much you read. Read in the grocery line, at the bank, or while pedaling your stationary bike. You'll quickly find that the more you read, the more you will want to read, and the less stress you will feel