5 ways reading can improve your wellbeing

Written by WRAP

Life at university is tough. Finding the time to read and write for pleasure is not always easy, with seemingly never-ending academic material to get through. And whilst binge-watching your favourite Netflix show (plus your second favourite!) or scrolling through social media is a break from studying, losing yourself in a good book should also be considered – especially as this activity can have LOTS of well-being benefits… 

  • Reading can reduce stress 

Reading books can engage the mind, body and soul! A book submerges you in a new world. This not only distracts you from everyday life but also increases relaxation and reduces stress by focusing your brain on a single task. In fact, a study conducted by the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by up to an astonishing 68%.1 It has even been suggested that the active engagement of imagination created by reading can essentially cause people to enter an altered state of consciousness. Maybe this explains the phrase “getting lost in a good book”!    

  • Reading can enhance social skills 

Humans are social animals, and developing social skills is a lifetime commitment. Reading fiction can help us understand our social experiences. Studies have found that people who read fiction may have a better “theory of mind” – the ability to understand that your own beliefs, desires, and thoughts are different from other people. 2 This may be because reading fiction provides a myriad of social interactions (both good and bad examples!), allowing people a safe space to think about how they may act in a similar situation.   

  • Reading can support the alleviation of depressive symptoms 

It is estimated that globally 5% of adults suffer from depression; reading both fiction and non-fiction can help alleviate depressive symptoms.3 Non-fiction includes self-help books that can teach you strategies that may help to manage symptoms, while fiction allows temporary escapism into another world. One clinical study suggested that the mental health of depressed patients had improved when they attended a reading group; further research is on-going.4  

  • Reading exercises your brain 

 “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go,” Dr Seuss quotes, and it seems he couldn’t have been more right. A 2014 study found that a complex network of brain circuits and signals are stimulated (and can be further developed) by reading.5 Our brain is a muscle: use it or lose it! 

Moreover, a 2011 study found that people who read books regularly at a young age have the potential to gradually develop large vocabularies.6 A 2019 Cengage poll showed that over 60% of employers are looking for people with “soft” skills, including the ability to communicate effectively.7 This is something which a more extensive vocabulary may help with.     

  • Reading is pleasurable 

It is a magical feeling once you find a good book that you can’t put down. You can be transported to a different world or learn so much about this. Stories can captivate you so that time vanishes. So why not dive into the world of reading? 

These are just 5 well-being reasons to pick up a book – if you want to know where to start why not get involved with WRAP, NTU’s writing, reading and pleasure programme? WRAP is an extra-curricular programme for all things words. Designed with and for students, there are weekly and monthly writing workshops, book clubs and masterclasses and public events.

Check out what’s happening via the Visual Art Centre (MS Teams) and our blog or email WRAP@ntu.ac.uk for any more questions. 

On Wednesday 17th November WRAP will be running a Wellbeing Book Blub (3-4pm) and Wellbeing Writing Workshop (4:30-5:30) as part of Healthy NTU’s Creative Wellbeing Workshops (see below). For details on how to join these WRAP events email WRAP@ntu.ac.uk

So, will you pick up a book today? 

Roma

Currently Reading The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

For help, advice and resources whilst studying at NTU, take a look at the following for sources of support.

References:

1Lewis, D. (2009). Reading can Reduce Stress. Galaxy Stress Research, Mindlab International, Sussex University, UK.

2Kidd, D. C., & Castano, E. (2013). Reading literary fiction improves theory of mind. Science, 342(6156), 377-380.

3Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation. Global Health Data Exchange (GHDx).  
http://ghdx.healthdata.org/gbd-results-tool?params=gbd-api-2019 permalink/d780dffbe8a381b25e1416884959e88b

4Billington, J., Dowrick, C., Hamer, A., Robinson, J., & Williams, C. (2010). An investigation into the therapeutic benefits of reading in relation to depression and well-being. Liverpool: The Reader Organization, Liverpool Health Inequalities Research Centre.

5Houston, S. M., Lebel, C., Katzir, T., Manis, F. R., Kan, E., Rodriguez, G. R., & Sowell, E. R. (2014). Reading skill and structural brain development. Neuroreport25(5), 347.

6Cain, K., & Oakhill, J. (2011). Matthew effects in young readers: Reading comprehension and reading experience aid vocabulary development. Journal of learning disabilities44(5), 431-443.

7New Survey: Demand for “Uniquely Human Skills” Increases Even as Technology and Automation Replace Some Jobs. (2019). Retrieved 30 September 2021, from https://www.cengagegroup.com/news/press-releases/2019/new-survey-demand-for-uniquely-human-skills-increases-even-as-technology-and-automation-replace-some-jobs/


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