Reading for Your Health

Even reading the word “stress” can make palms sweaty and brows furrow. But stress isn’t all bad. In some cases, stress keeps us extra alert or allows us to perform better. You probably know a person (or ARE a person) who performs best under pressure or stress.

However, constant stress can be severely detrimental to your health. Stress has been shown to cause headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and even skin conditions. In fact, the figures on the negative effects of stress are probably much higher than you might think.

Research has shown that more than 43% of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress. In addition, somewhere between 75% and 90% of all doctor’s office visits are stress-related ailments and complaints. Not only does stress contribute to more doctor visits, bu the lifetime prevalence of an emotional disorder is more than 50% often due to chronic, untreated stress reactions.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) even declared stress a hazard of the workplace. When you put all these figures together, it’s no surprise that managing stress comes with a pretty hefty bill – an estimated $300 BILLION annually.

So what can you do to help manage the stress in your life? It might be as easy as picking up a book! Recently, the University of Sussex in Brighton, UK found that the simple act of reading can reduce stress by up to 68%, working faster than other relaxation methods such as listening to music or enjoying a cup of hot tea.

Here are a few tips to help you reap the stress-reducing benefits of reading:

1. Make a quality environment. Find a quiet place that will allow you to read with no interruptions. For instance, if you have a garden or yard that relaxes you, curl up there. If your favorite comfy chair already calms you down, try reading there.

2. Make it enjoyable. Find a subject matter you enjoy – be it history, romantic fiction, sci-fi or even nature books. Stay away from anything that will upset you. For instance, if politics gets your blood boiling, it’s probably better to shy away from those books.

3. Make it count. Pay attention to how you feel after you finish reading. Are you calm, relaxed, and feeling refreshed? If you’re not feeling less stressed, try a different kind of book next time.

4. Make it a priority. Set aside at least 30 minutes per day to read. Keep in mind that keeping your stress level down is a vitally important aspect to good health.