If you enjoy reading, you know the positive impact a good work of fiction can have on your mood, but did you know that it can affect other aspects of your life as well? As a writer, I often find myself focusing on my own work, and not taking the time to read as much as I would like to. Science tells us that there are a multitude of good reasons why we should set aside time in our days to get lost in a good story.
Christine Seifert, a professor of communication at Westminster College, wrote an article for Harvard Business Review, in which she explained that reading fiction encourages the development of multiple skills that are highly sought after by employers, particularly those which allow them to interact more effectively with their co-workers. She asserts that fictional stories aid us in viewing things from different perspectives, thus helping us to develop empathy for people in the real world. She also discusses our culture’s need for “cognitive closure” which means that we tend to look for quick, easy answers to problems, and resist changing our minds after we have reached a conclusion. Reading fiction helps us to overcome this urge, by forcing us to follow a story through all of its twists and turns before reaching its end. Overall, reading fiction gives us the ability to look at the world through a wider lens, and to accept viewpoints other than our own.
Mental Floss shared an article written by Abigail Fagan, about the physical and emotional benefits of reading. These benefits include reducing stress, increasing creativity, expanding vocabulary and general knowledge, and even increasing your lifespan. The article also sites a University of Toronto study which found that reading about fictional characters actually changes the way we see ourselves.
These articles make it clear that reading is not only enjoyable but immensely beneficial. It helps us develop skills that will be of great value to us in both our personal and professional lives, and increase our physical and emotional health. So how do we make the most of these benefits?
· 1- Read more. It can seem hard to find enough hours in the day to do everything we want to do, but set aside a little time to read, knowing that it will benefit you in the long run.
· 2- Read fiction specifically. Reading non-fiction can be great. Educational, and informative books help us learn and expand our minds, but when it comes to many of the emotional, and interpersonal benefits of reading, fiction is the way to go.
· 3- Read stories that challenge you to think outside of your own experiences. Read fiction from writers, and about characters, who have led different lives, and faced different challenges than your own. Becoming absorbed in a great story makes us feel like we are living the lives of the characters. This feeling allows us to relate to people in our real lives who we might otherwise never connect with.
So, the next time you want to sit down with a good book, but feel like you have more important things to do, remind yourself that reading fiction will make you a happier, healthier, and more socially aware person.
If you noticed that this post is different from my usual ones, that’s because it is for my Social Media Marketing specialization on Coursera. If you like it, let me know and I’ll try to do more posts that are similar.
Whitney Metz is the author of the Black Magick Series. She lives outside the town of Mannington, West Virginia with Riley and Petunia, two pigs she adopted during an internship at Farm Sanctuary. She also writes a weekly blog at her website whitneymetz.com.
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