There are surprising benefits to reading fiction which you probably didn’t even know about: from improving cognition and your personal relationships, to even making you more empathetic as a person. Let’s have a look at 7 reasons why reading fiction is good for us.
1. It improves your relationships
Life is all about quality relationships and you’ll be amazed at how reading fiction can help improve yours.
When we read fiction, we place ourselves in various characters’ shoes and this helps us see things from different perspectives. This way we develop a greater sense of awareness of other people’s emotional states.
According to research published in Science, literary fiction in particular can help us read emotional cues and analyze other people’s motives. This, in turn, can help us become more understanding human beings, which greatly enhances our ability to connect with others.
2. It stimulates your sensations
Neurologists have long studied the effects of reading on the brain and they found that the changes caused by reading a novel can make readers feel as if they’re actually experiencing what they’re reading. This phenomenon is known as grounded or embodied cognition.
Embodied cognition is similar to visualization, in which just thinking about doing something like playing a sport, climbing a mountain, or seeing a loved one can activate the part of your brain that is associated with the act itself.
“The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist”, said neuroscientist Professor Gregory S. Berns, lead author of the study.
In other words, you feel what the protagonist feels.
Neurobiological research has just begun to identify the brain networks that are active when processing stories. What they were able to determine is that our ability to conjure images while reading improves and stimulates our sensations. This results into picturing, which almost equals to actually experiencing.
3. It helps you deal with our fast-changing world
Reading fiction can help us learn to deal with change. Change is all around us and by picturing different universes, environments and situations that are unlike our own, it helps us come to terms with change and grasp the transient nature of existence.
Fiction novels can take you to new places and introduce you to people whose lives and struggles and opinions you can’t even imagine until you read their stories. What you’ll find is that there’s almost always a broader commentary about human societies, especially in fantasy and sci-fi stories. Some even go so far as to depict a dystopic world with similarities to our own.
Opening our eyes to the possibilities of what ‘could be’, immediately places us one step ahead when it comes to keeping up with the rapidly changing world we live in.
4. You accept the fact that not everything requires an answer
Whether you are dealing with personal problems in which you are unable to get closure or trying to answer a philosophical question, by being a regular fiction reader – as opposed to reading non-fiction – you can come to terms with the fact that answers do not always come in neat packages and are also more likely to settle for a more creative answer.
According to a study whose findings were published in the Creativity Research Journal, Opening the Closed Mind: The Effect of Exposure to Literature on the Need for Closure, participants who were reading a short story (fiction) as opposed to an essay (non-fiction) experienced a significant decrease in self-reported need for cognitive closure. The effect was particularly strong for participants who were regular readers.
This suggests that reading fiction could help us better process information and become more creative when it comes to dealing with difficult situations.
5. It reduces stress levels
According to research conducted by the University of Sussex, just 6 minutes of reading can reduce stress by 68%, which places it at the top compared to other activities such as: listening to music (61%), having a cup of tea or coffee(54%) and taking a walk (42%).
Psychologists believe this is because the human mind has to concentrate when it reads. It doesn’t really matter what genre of fiction you read; by entering the world that opens its doors to you through a book’s pages, you set aside your daily thoughts and start relaxing.
6. It also encourages empathy
Do you remember crying over the death of your favourite character as a child, or getting worked-up when something in the book you were reading was unfair, or the main character was mistreated?
There is no doubt that books leave an intangible imprint on our lives and hearts; this is why it makes perfect sense that a close link exists between reading and developing empathy.
Scientific research has acknowledged the powerful effect books have on our opinions and emotions because they prompt us to experience and understand a world unlike our own. This in turn makes us more empathetic as human beings.
7. Oh, and it helps expand your vocabulary too!
Especially when it comes to children and teenagers:
Source: Test your vocab: The blog
Read more fiction for a better you
So now we know there’s a good reason (actually 7) why we love reading fiction so much.
And with all those benefits, we’re definitely making more time for it from now on. Are you?
If you’re looking for suggestions, here are three novels our readers love:
Spectra, by Ebony Olson
The Enchanting Midnight, by Aditi Mishra
The Unadjusteds, by Marisa Blagden