What do taking a walk, drinking a cup of tea, playing a video game, listening to music, and reading a book have in common? They’re all ways to lower your stress level. According to a 2009 research study at the University of Sussex in England, though, reading a book is by far the best way to get your stress level down.
Cognitive neuropsychologist Dr. David Lewis led the team that carried out the research. He and his colleagues increased their subjects’ stress levels and heart rate through a variety of tests and exercises before examining the effects of the various forms of relaxation. What they found was that reading worked best, reducing stress levels by 68 per cent. In fact, volunteers had to read silently for only six minutes before their heart rate began to slow down and the tension drained from their muscles. It even got subjects to stress levels lower than they had before they started the experiment
According to Dr. Lewis in an interview with “The Telegraph,” “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.” In other words, it introduced a state of mindfulness, where people do not multitask but focus completely on only one activity at a time.
By comparison, listening to music reduced levels by 61 percent, a cup of tea or coffee decreased them by 54 percent, and taking a walk lowered them by 42 percent. While playing video games reduced stress levels by 21 percent, that activity still left the volunteers with heart rates above their starting point.
So, need a stress-buster? Crack open a book or turn on your eReader and let yourself go. Reading can take you to places your imagination will love to ponder and your body can soak it all in. You’ve got nothing to lose but all the stress you’ve managed to accumulate.