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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

7 Benefits of Reading Fiction


Is your life so busy you re wondering how you are going to
find time to read more, especially when it s just for
pleasure ? Having trouble justifying it, even to
yourself? Leisure activities like reading are often the
things that slide when life goes into overdrive. And
that s sad because it s an activity that can make life
richer and more enjoyable.

A lot has been written about the benefits of reading for
and to children. However, there is very little about the
benefits to adults in engaging in regular reading. Let me
assure you that the benefits for adults do exist and are
many and varied.

Some of these include:

1. Providing an escape from the day-to-day
Fiction is a great way to take a quick immediate break, to
be instantly transported into another world. Today you
could be in America, in the deep south with Alice Walker s
The Colour Purple , tomorrow in the Australian bush with
Tim Winton s Dirt Music , next week in downtown London
with Helen Fielding s Bridget Jones Diary and next month
in Ireland with Jim O Neill s At Swim, Two Boys . There
is no limit to the places fiction can take you.

2. Relaxation
There is something about stopping to focus on words
arranged for our reading pleasure that is instantly
relaxing. Maybe it s staying still, something that doesn t
seem to happen often enough. Maybe it s knowing that we
are stepping into a secret world that we have to relax
enough to enter. Then there is the words themselves. The
beauty and rhythm of language has the ability to calm and
relax us.

3. Stress relief
Taking your mind off your own problems, even for a few
minutes, can have a therapeutic effect and be a timely
circuit breaker. This is so effective that the National
Health System in the United Kingdom has introduced a
Reading and You Scheme . The scheme encourages mental
health patients to read more as part of their therapy for
reducing stress and overcoming anxiety, depression and
social isolation.

4. Stimulates the right side of your brain
Reading opens your mind to new possibilities. It stretches
your imagination in new and wonderful directions and takes
your mind on a wonderful journey through others lives.
What would you do if you were Jo Becker in While I Was
Gone by Sue Miller? Would you tell your husband and three
daughters about a grisly crime that happened when you were
a university student? Or would you try to pretend it never
happened?

5. Entertaining
Fiction is capable of provoking many and varied emotional
responses it can make you laugh out loud, it can make
tears spill onto the page, it can be edge-of-the seat
terrifying, it can make you blush with embarrassment, it
can challenge your core beliefs. There is a world of
emotion in every story and you as the reader get to be part
of it.

6. Enjoyable
Reading is a deeply satisfying pursuit. The expression
curling up with a book evokes a warm and cosy image and
feels luxurious if you don t get to do it often.

7. Rejuvenating
Reading is an easy and quick way to nourish your soul
because it is for the most part a solitary pursuit. And
being alone, or at least alone in your thoughts, on a
regular basis is crucial to maintaining a sense of self.
As I m sure you know, it s easier to give to others when
you feel fulfilled and your needs are met. Even just a few
minutes of reading can keep you going throughout the day.
Of course, you know you ve read something special when you
find your thoughts continually re-visiting it.

Reading is like exercising mental and physical benefits
flow from a regular routine.

So don' t feel guilty about taking time out to read. Its
good for you!

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