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Bookworms Rejoice: Here Are 7 Reasons Reading Fiction Can Be Good for You
"In books I have traveled, not only to other worlds, but into my own. I learned who I was and who I wanted to be, what I might aspire to, and what I might dare to dream about the world and myself." -- Anna Quindlen
Settling down for the evening with a great novel and a good cup of tea is, as many a bookworm will tell you, one of the finer pleasures of life. However, it turns out that these retreats into the literary realm are actually good for us.
As well as helping us to relax, reading fiction can prepare us for difficult situations, envisage change in ourselves, and even help us navigate social situations. If you're in need of an excuse to pick up a novel and treat yourself to a bit of 'bibliotherapy', here are seven good reasons to get started.
1. Relaxing with a novel can reduce stress levels by up to 68 percent
Mindlab International at the University of Sussex have found that reading for as little as six minutes can reduce stress levels by more than two-thirds, which is more effective than listening to music or drinking a cup of tea.
2. Fiction can help us prepare for difficult situations In Such Stuff as Dreams: The Psychology of Fiction, professor and novelist Keith Oatley describes fiction as a 'simulation' of life which can guide us in much the same way that a flight simulator would teach a pilot. If you're about to face a difficult situation, why not see how fiction characters deal with it first?
3. Reading fiction can improve our social skills In fiction we witness how characters approach their relationships and group interactions. This can help us to understand what others think and feel, and even act more tactfully in our own social situations. In fact, the more fiction a person is exposed to, the better they tend to do on measures of social ability.
4. Reading fiction can help us make real changes When you enter the mind and world of a literary character, you may even change your own behaviour and thoughts to match that of the character, researchers Lisa Libby and Geoff Kaufman at The Ohio State University suggest. Therefore, by reading positive, inspiring novels, it can be easier to make better decisions and create change in our own lives.
5. Books can help us to connect with others in the real world By talking about books, we share our own stories, beliefs and dreams with others, and form meaningful connections in the process. Whether we start a book club, join a bibliotherapy group, or simply chat with friends about our favourite authors, reading fiction is associated with high social support, or having a circle of close friends.
6. Reading fiction can make us more comfortable with change If you've come to dread uncertainty, exposure to literature may even help you to open your mind and accept a greater degree of ambiguity.
7. Fiction opens our minds to new places, people and cultures Fiction can allow us to envisage a multi-cultural and more equal society to the one we currently live in. By simply opening a novel, we can get inside the role of a third world citizen, someone of the opposite sex, or a marginalised immigrant.
"Through art alone are we able to emerge from ourselves, to know what another person sees of a universe which is not the same as our own and of which, without art, the landscapes would remain as unknown to us as those that may exist on the moon." - Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time
So, if you've been falling behind with your reading, try taking a trip to the bookshop to kick-start your reading habit. It will probably help you out more than you think.