6 mins of reading reduces stress by 68% – so does this include The Green Sheep?

Posted in Wellbeing.

A new study has revealed that just six minutes of reading per day can reduce stress levels by 68 percent. So we have to ask, does this include ‘Where is the Green Sheep,’ because bedtime books are the only ones we read these days. 

Reading is the best way to relax

Life is stressful, kids are stressful and gawd knows, managing the work/family juggle is overwhelmingly stressful. So what’s the best way to unwind? Well according to this research, reading for just six minutes per day can be enough to reduce our tension levels by more than two thirds.

Woman reading a book

Better than a cuppa

What’s more, the researchers found that the daily short burst of reading can calm frazzled nerves better and faster than other methods. This includes things like sitting down with a hot cup of tea (and actually drinking it. Imagine that?!), playing video games or going for a walk.

The psychologists behind the study believe the reason reading is so relaxing is that it forces our minds to stop and concentrate on the words on the page, while also escaping into another world. In doing so, this eases the tension in our muscles and lowers the heart rate. 

More on books and the power of reading:

The study

To come to their findings, the researchers carried out a variety of tests on a group of volunteers at the University of Sussex.

Monitoring their stress levels and heart rate through a range of stress-inducing exercises, the researchers then tested a variety of traditional methods of relaxation, to see which was most calming.

Reading worked best, reducing stress levels by 68 percent with subjects only needing to read for six minutes to slow down their heart rate and ease tension in the muscles. In fact, it got subjects to stress levels lower than before they started.

This was compared to other things like listening to music, which reduced stress by 61 percent, sitting down to drink a cup of tea (54 per cent) and taking a walk (42 per cent).

Playing video games brought them down by 21 percent from their highest level but still left the volunteers with heart rates above their starting point.

“Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation,” said cognitive neuropsychologist, Dr David Lewis, who conducted the tests. 

So does this include kiddie story time?

As for whether the six minutes of reading included the snugly time we spend with our little ones reading the same books over and over of a night, I’m, not sure.

While the ‘reading for relaxation’ test was conducted on ‘silent’ reading, that is to oneself,  it didn’t include reading out loud.

According to Dr Lewis though, it doesn’t matter what we read, just so long as we escape into another world and can forget about the troubles in ours for a period of time.

As he says: 

“It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination.

“This is more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.” 

Dad reading book to toddler girl

True for me

I’m not sure if books like ‘Where is the Green sheep‘ which I can recite in my sleep, constitutes being a ‘thoroughly engrossing book’ but I know story time with my kids is special and also relaxing.

When I snuggle their warm little bodies into mine of a night to read their favourite titles, I also start to unwind. Storytime for us usually occurs at the end of the day. After a warm bath and before sleep steals them away for the night. It is a quiet time and although I’m also tired, I enjoy escaping into a world where a sheep slides down slippery dips and rides surfboards.

One of these days I will spend my six minutes of ‘reading relaxation time’ reading a book of my choosing. Until that day comes though, I’m hoping story time with my kids will count as ‘stress-reducing’ because, at this point in my life, this is the only reading I do.   


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