There’s nothing quite like curling up with a warm blanket and a good book. If you’re looking for an easy way to unwind, reading is an excellent outlet. Research found that reading works better to calm your nerves than going for a walk, unwinding in an infrared sauna, listening to music, or setting down with a cup of tea. Of course, choosing the right book can make a world of difference when it comes to lowering your stress levels.
The Science Behind Why Reading is Relaxing
Most bookworms know that reading provides a plethora of benefits aside from telling a story. According to a 2009 study published by the University of Sussex, reading was found to reduce stress levels by as much as 68 percent. When you read, you’re essentially districting your mind from your daily worries and anxieties. When immersed in a book, your muscles tend to relax which helps to relieve physical and mental stress.
Where you read and how you read can make a significant difference in your level of relaxation at the end of a reading session. You’ll likely get more out of it if you read in a quiet place that allows you to better focus on the task at hand. Reading from a physical book instead of a screen can also be more beneficial. Research found that reading from a screen can slow you down by as much as 20 to 30 percent.
Best Book Genres for Relaxation
Certain book genres are better than others at helping to calm your nerves and relax your mind. Fiction books allow you to escape from reality and experience a new life at a new time through someone else’s eyes. Not only can this be insightful and expand your imagination, but can also be relaxing. Fantasy books are one of the most popular sub-types for opening and de-stressing your mind. In fantasy books, anything is possible.
What Book Genres Do Not Promote Relaxation
While everyone is different, certain book genres do not typically promote relaxation. On the contrary, certain book genres can generate emotional distress. For example, reading business or finance books can cause anxiety about your own declining financial situation. For some, the horror and science fiction genres can be a bit on the frightening side which can lead to feelings of fear, nervousness, or panic.
Our Top 5 Book Picks for Relaxation
The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh is a beautiful and lucid guide to the practice of meditation. Throughout the book, the profound author offers us a deeper understanding into the art of mindfulness and helps us develop the skills needed to be fully awake and aware. Everyday situations are used to help you practice mindfulness in your own life, such as peeling an orange or answering the phone. The book shows us that even the smallest of tasks can help us achieve peace and self-understanding.
It’s not always easy to let go of our negative thoughts and behavior. In The FreeMind Experience: The Three Pillars of Absolute Happiness, clinical hypnotherapist Tom Fortes Mayer helps readers change their life for the better. Mayer created a self-hypnosis system that aims to unleash your inner potential by helping you to live life in the moment instead of in the past or future. By reprogramming your negative thoughts, you can become more at peace with yourself.
If you’re feeling a little down in the dumps about your own money pressures, read The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams & Reaching Your Destiny by Robin Sharma. This captivating fable tells the story of protagonist Julian Mantle, a high-profile lawyer who sets off on a journey to India after suffering a heart attack. In the story, he sells all his personal possessions in search of a simpler life and a more meaningful existence.
This must-read short story collection is the perfect escape from real life and a quirky read for those who love food. The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted: And Other Small Acts of Liberation by Elizabeth Berg follows the narrator who spends an entire day eating whatever she wants, starting with breakfast at Dunkin’ Donuts. The uplifting stories help explore the various challenges that women face every day while touching on hot-button subjects like dieting and aging.
No book list is complete with a steamy romance novel. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is filled with vivid detailing, memorable characters, and rich history. The 600-page time-travel romance features Claire Randall, a strong-willed woman torn between two men. After going back in time and falling in love with a young World War II soldier, she struggles to choose between her lover in one century and her husband in another. The heartwarming novel will have you cheering for Claire and her happily ever after.
A cozy read before bed is an excellent way to de-stress and prepare your mind and body for sweet dreams. Whether you enjoy the classics like Jane Austen and Mark Twain, or prefer more modern authors like John Grisham and JK Rowling, the right book can help you forget about your worries and relax. If you’re not a big reader, start with just 30 minutes a day before going to sleep. If you find reading too challenging, try an audio book instead.
If you want to grow your love for reading but need a little motivation, form or join a book club. Book clubs are a great way to gain encouragement from like-minded folks, share ideas for new books, and simply enjoy the company of others. No matter how or where you do it, reading is a simple, inexpensive, and incredibly effective way to relieve stress and boost your mental health.