We each have our own way of unwinding after a long day, usually through things that don’t require that much brain power, like scrolling through our Instagram feeds, resuming our Netflix binge-watch, or playing video games. (Though, the healthier ones out there might prefer to de-stress through meditation, yoga, or going for a jog.)
But what does it really mean to de-stress, and what are the most effective ways to unwind?
A study conducted by the MindLab International at the University of Sussex, UK looked into activities commonly associated with relaxation, such as listening to music, drinking a cup of tea or coffee, taking a walk, playing video games, and reading a book. They found that these activities reduced stress levels by 61 percent, 54 percent, 42 percent, 21 percent, and 68 percent, respectively.
People who don’t enjoy reading might find this debatable, but yes, reading books is apparently the most effective way of reducing stress, and it makes sense.
At time where technology makes it almost impossible to fully tune out and “disconnect”—what with the incessant app notifications, emails, and reminders—something as simple as reading a book (an actual book, not an eBook on your phone or tablet) provides a respite from all the noise.
“Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation,” says Dr. David Lewis, a cognitive neuropsychologist who was involved in the research. It’s not just another distraction; the act of reading requires your full attention and engages the imagination. Immersing yourself in a book is almost meditative and, based on the study, reading for just six minutes is enough to lower stress levels.
We’ve turned to various forms of media to tune out and escape the tediousness of the daily grind, but it turns out, we need to tune out from that, too. Next time you catch yourself reaching for your phone before going to bed, maybe go for a book instead.
On a side note, I once went out for a walk while reading a book and listening to music—simultaneously. I don’t suggest it.
Images courtesy of Unsplash.