Why does reading make me feel better?

Last week on a gloomy afternoon, I curled up in my reading chair and dove into the pages of a book. Ice cold raindrops trailed down the window as I switched on the lamp beside my chair. I was miserable after running errands in the freezing rain and didn’t feel like reading a grocery list, let alone the first chapter of another novel. But I promised myself that I would start this book that had been in the queue on my e-reader for months. I decided to give it a chance and I would read at least the first ten pages, by golly, before I slipped down the Netflix rabbit hole.

Three chapters later, I came up for air, feeling far better than when I went in. The day was still cold and gloomy (the sun was slipping below the horizon by then) and the rain was still dripping down my window, but my mood was lighter and I was able to face chopping vegetables for dinner without succumbing to pizza delivery. What was I reading? A cozy mystery, of course. To be specific, it was A Deadly Cliché, the second book in Ellery Adams’ Books by the Bay series. Yes, as usual, solving a murder was the plot, but amateur sleuth Olivia Limoges lives in Oyster Bay, North Carolina and, for a landlocked lubber like myself, I was transported to someplace unlike my town. For those who have read this book, you know it starts with talk of a brewing storm, but I felt better reading about Oyster Bay’s weather than living through mine.

Which got me thinking: why do I feel better when I read a book? Can reading be a mood enhancer? Questions like that always send me to the internet in search of answers.

It turns out that there has been considerable research done on the health effects of reading, particularly if you read fiction. Some of the positives are:

1.  reading can help prevent Alzheimer’s by exercising your memory muscles and keeping your mind sharp;

2.  reading helps analytical thinking and creative problem solving;

3.  reading gives you insight on what is happening in your life now (for example, reading about how a fictional character deals with a breakup can give you another perspective if you are going through one of your own);

4.  reading fiction makes you a more empathetic person by seeing life through another person’s shoes (see #3);

5.  reading makes you a better writer; and,

6.  reading reduces stress and puts you in a better mood.

These are only a few of the goodies I came across as I searched for why reading makes me feel so good. General consensus is that reading is good for you.

So the next time I get lost in a book and lose track of time, I won’t feel guilty. It’s healthy.

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