Do you belong to a book club? Are you on GoodReads.com? Is Amazon your BFF? If so, good for you! Literally. The folks at Buffer.com say the many benefits of reading fiction include self improvement, being happier, more creative and more!
This is, in part, because exploring other worlds through stories that exist only in the mind helps us relate to groups of people we may never meet or put us into situations we’ll probably never get to experience otherwise.
As bestselling author Stephen King so famously said, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.” Reading fiction makes you happy and creative for a variety of reasons, plus it builds your vocabulary and helps you sleep better.
The next time you feel guilty for picking up a work of fiction instead of a self-help or educational book, just think about these five benefits of reading fiction.
5 Benefits of Reading Fiction
Reading makes you happy
People read fiction because they love it. A survey of 1,500 adult readers by Book Trust found that 76% of them said reading improves their life and helps to make them feel good. Other findings of the survey show those who read books regularly are on average more satisfied with life, happier, and more likely to feel that the things they do in life are worthwhile. In essence, reading makes you happy.
Reading makes you more empathetic and inclusive
According to psychologist Raymond Mar, “Narratives offer a unique opportunity to engage [with others] as we identify with characters’ longings and frustrations, guess at their hidden motives and track their encounters with friends and enemies, neighbors and lovers.” A study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology concluded that the Harry Potter series could be used as a tool for improving attitudes toward stigmatized groups.
Reading takes you places you may never otherwise go
Historical fiction that carries you into the past, speculative fiction that takes you into the future—any fiction can be almost physically transporting, because when we read about a situation or feeling, it’s nearly as if we’re feeling it ourselves. As Fast Company reports, “Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis scanned the brains of fiction readers and discovered that their test subjects created intense, graphic mental simulations of the sights, sounds, movements, and tastes they encountered in the narrative. In essence, their brains reacted as if they were actually living the events they were reading about.”
Reading reduces stress
Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state that is similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation. According to an article in the New Yorker, “Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers.” Research at the University of Sussex showed that reading is the most effective way to overcome stress, beating out other methods like listening to music or taking a walk.
Reading makes you feel more creative
Like our bodies, our brains need exercise daily to stay fit. Mental fitness is as important as physical fitness but we don’t prioritize workouts for our minds like we do workouts in the gym for our muscles. We tend to use our free time watching TV, on social media, playing with apps on mobile phones, which makes it harder for us to focus and get creative with thoughts of our own. In a study conducted by Emory University comparing readers and non-readers, results proved that the brains of the readers showed more activity in certain areas that are key to creativity.