One Pandemic Stress Reducer You Should Put to Use

This self-help measure impacts anxiety, mood, and sex drive.

Posted Aug 07, 2020

Fears of coronavirus, societal injustice, political squabbling, riots… oh, plus being employee, spouse, friend, parent, and teacher too, while quarantined months on end.

Shutterstock Purchase/L. Oberlin
You reap not only mental but physical health benefits from relaxing with a good novel.
Source: Shutterstock Purchase/L. Oberlin

In as little as six minutes reading a novel that transports you into a character’s world, you can reduce stress by 68% with lowered heart rate and muscle tension, per the University of Sussex. These UK researchers compared the pastime and found that reading outshined listening to music, taking a walk or having a cup of tea.1 So: Grab a good book.

Therapists recommend reading to therapy clients for many reasons. I’ve seen the power of its distraction during tough times or transitions in my own life.2 Reading women’s fiction— emotional journeys that find women exploring their own needs as well as relationships—led to my adopting a pen name to write a Chesapeake series that is pure escape. Indeed, escape is where it's at for readers, especially now. E-commerce figures prove it.3

In April as coronavirus restrictions kept people quarantined, CNBC reported that people shifted from stockpiling to purchasing books, which surged to 295%, measured by year-over-year growth, not including Amazon sales, which would have soared this much higher.4  NPD BookScan showed a 51% rise in contemporary women’s fiction, 28% increase in romance, and a 13% rise in thrillers.5

Pixabay/L. Oberlin
In as little as six minutes lost in a character's world, readers can experience reduced heart rate and muscle tension.
Source: Pixabay/L. Oberlin

Respondents to a Guardian poll explained that they had more time to turn pages, needed to stay entertained, and used books as an escape.6 Other book purchases reflected politics, pandemics, and apocalypse themes.

What might get you to settle down with someone else’s story? Here’s what you may gain:

  • Reading fiction is shown to enhance a skill known as theory of mind, which is the ability to understand others’ mental states and show increased empathy.7
  • Book readers live an average of two years longer than non-readers, according to research published in Social Science & Medicine. Compared to those who didn’t read books, people who read for up to 3.5 hours per week had a 17% lower risk of dying over the next 12 years; and those who read more than 3.5 hours per week lowered the risk of dying prematurely by 23 percent.8
  • Reading can help build sexual tension and improve responsive desire, especially when libido wanes. Responsive desire means that you need to be stimulated—mentally and/or physically; in other words, you don’t just wake up spontaneously wishing to have sex.9

For women, sexuality is very mindful, but in order to be fully present, most women must build sexual tension and distract from day-to-day activities or the to-do list, by engaging in meditation and by allowing their brains to fantasize.

Herein is where a good novel—romance genre, women’s fiction or erotica, for sure—primes a woman’s desire in ways that male-fantasy-driven films cannot.

Pixabay/L. Oberlin
Feel-good books topped readers choices during the 2020 global pandemic
Source: Pixabay/L. Oberlin

Sexual scenarios made for the big screen stimulate more men than women it appears. Novels allow you to picture characters the way you imagine them, more than in movies. As for cover art, do read book descriptions first to fully select new authors or old favorites.

  • Compared to remote-control pushing, reading gave an edge to kindness as researchers at Kingston University in London found. Reading, which introduces language to children when they are read to and develops vocabulary and communication for all ages, pays off with greater awareness and empathy for other people’s feelings. In this study, those who watched television came across as less friendly, with lower understanding for others’ views.10
  • Also, lifelong readers have been found to have more protection against Lewy bodies, amyloid burden, and tangles in their brains over a six-year study, published in Neurology. Reading into one’s older years reduced memory decline by more than 30%, compared to other forms of mental activity.11

Take Away: Reading for merely 10-30 minutes a day offers plentiful advantages for mental/physical well-being, one’s kindness quotient, relationships, and libido as well as living longer to experience it all!

Copyright @ 2020 by Loriann Oberlin. All Rights Reserved.

Related to this topic:

"A Dozen Diversions in an Uncertain Pandemic"

"Surviving and Thriving While Social Distancing"

References

2. Letting Go: The Maryland Shores and Second Chances: The Maryland Shores; www.loriannoberlin.com/fiction