Health & Wellness

5 Ways Reading Novels Every Day Makes You Happier and Healthier

As a kid and young adult, I read a lot of fiction. My idea of a Saturday afternoon well spent was wandering through the bookstore’s aisles to carefully pick out my next read.

But you know how it goes. You get older, the weight of responsibility comes crashing down on you, and suddenly, you don’t have as much time for the things you enjoy doing. By my 30s, I was a self-proclaimed “careerist” and prioritized productivity over everything else. If I were going to spend precious time reading anything, it would be self-help or other non-fiction books that would expand my knowledge and teach me how to manage my life better.

Truth be told, I spent the better part of the last decade scarcely reading any novels. Maybe one or two a year, whenever I was on vacation and allowed myself the “luxury” of reading a book.

But while my career and business are going better than ever, the constant hustle these past two years has eroded my well-being. So a couple of months ago, I had to force myself to step back from some aspects of work to preserve my sanity. I promised not to fill my newfound time with new work (a bad habit of mine), so instead, I filled it with books.

Books designed not to educate, but to entertain. I came to love it so much I started this book blog to share my reading journey with the world!

And it’s arguably the best thing I’ve done for my health all year. I had forgotten how joyful reading could be when you find a story that pulls you in and captivates your mind. It’s downright magical.

But reading for entertainment isn’t just enjoyable; it has many health benefits as well. Here are five reasons why you should read novels every day for your physical and mental well-being:

1. Reduces Stress

In 2009, the University of Sussex found that reading for even six minutes a day could reduce stress levels by up to 68%. Getting caught up in a good story is a form of escapism that helps you forget about your troubles, deactivating your stress hormones and diminishing feelings of anxiety.

It doesn’t really matter what kind of novel you read to get this effect — unless perhaps you’re reading a thriller or horror novel.

2. Improves Cognitive Function

It’s no secret that reading fortifies your mind, with several studies attesting to it. For example, one 2013 study found that participants reading a novel called “Pompeii” showed increased connectivity in the brain — even for days afterward.

Some research also shows that reading may help ward off serious diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Although definitive, it’s encouraging enough to add a good book to your daily routine.

3. Boosts Creativity

Human beings were born to create. Few things make us happier than when we are making something, whether that’s art, fiction, crafts, buildings, or code. It provides a sense of purpose, accomplishment, pride, and joy.

And reading helps expand your mind to inspire that creativity.

For example, I used to write a lot of short fiction and have always wanted to write a novel, but I pushed those things aside to focus on projects that made money.

However, reading novels reminds me of why I started writing in the first place, and it’s sparked so many new ideas. I’m actually excited about writing again for the first time in a long time.

4. Promotes Emotional Intelligence

A good story is the closest we can get to experiencing something in someone else’s shoes. You get to see the world (whether that world is real or not) from a different perspective. That shift in perspective can change how you view and interact with people in real life.

Good fiction also encourages us to dig into complex, nuanced emotions like love, guilt, hope, regret, and anger. It also gives you a better vocabulary to label and describe your own feelings, which can help you handle them more effectively in your day-to-day life.

5. More Restful Zees

A recent study found that participants were more likely to feel that their sleep had improved if they read before bed compared to those who didn’t.

This could be partly because a work of fiction before bed can help “de-stimulate” your brain in the sense that, when you turn off the light to sleep, your brain muses about the story instead of your problems.

Reading is also an activity that doesn’t involve screens or blue light, which are shown to disrupt your melatonin production and restful sleep if viewed too close to bedtime.

This has been true for me. I used to have a bad habit of scrolling through TikTok for half an hour before bed, and it would take me forever to fall asleep when I finally put my phone down. Since I switched to reading before bed, I’ve fallen asleep just minutes after putting down my book. (Most nights, anyway!)

Final Thoughts

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions most years, but my goal for 2023 is to make reading novels the new, non-negotiable habit for my overall happiness and well-being.

So the next time you’re wandering through the bookstore for a tome that can help you feel better emotionally and physically, don’t confine yourself to the self-help section! The boost you need could be the next aisle over — in a riveting story that makes you feel, dream, and grow.

Corrie Alexander is a former ISSA-certified personal trainer, home fitness advocate, and founder of The Fit Careerist. A proponent of personal growth and a self-proclaimed fitness app-junkie, Corrie shares tips and product reviews with the goal of helping others on their own fitness journey.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.