how reading relieves stress in midlife

How Reading Relieves Stress & Helps Us Enjoy Life More

Last Updated on April 3, 2024 by Candi Randolph

Do you ever feel like your life is more stressful than you imagined it would be as a woman in midlife? From the everyday home stresses, to family issues, to health concerns, to the impact that world events have on us, there are so many things that pull on our time and energy.

Of course, we know that our physical and mental health is at the top of the list for self care. So we exercise, pay attention to nutrition and food choices, and focus on our wellbeing as healthy women. Or at least we want to stay that way!

Finding healthy ways to relieve stress is something that fits right into the overall goal of living and aging well.

One way we can do this is by reading! Yep, girlfriend, reading relieves stress, so go ahead and pick up a book. Reading relieves stress, and has been found to help improve moods, and even increase empathy. According to a 2009 study conducted by the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, reading can reduce stress levels by as much as 68 percent, even more than listening to music or going for a walk.

It’s been proven that reading books can help reduce stress levels. But did you know there are many ways that reading benefits your life? From improving your mood and perspective to giving you an escape, here are 12 more benefits of reading.

12 Ways that Reading Relieves Stress and Enriches Our Lives

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1) A sharp mind

As we age, our minds naturally start slowing down a little bit. This is normal and natural, and while it’s not necessarily bad, it could lead to other types of health issues such as developing Alzheimer’s disease in the future.

Fortunately, research has shown that engaging with complex mental tasks like solving puzzles or learning new languages can slow this process down by as much as 10 years! And guess what else does this? That’s right: reading!

So whether you’re working on a longstanding reading goal, reading something new for fun, spending some time with a book keeps your mind active and engaged which helps with relieving stress. 

2) Better sleep

We all know how important sleep is for our health and well-being, but if you’re someone who has trouble drifting off to the land of nod, reading can help.

A recent study found a link between reading for pleasure and having higher quality sleep (known as rapid eye movement or REM sleep). Further research has even found that spending some time with a book before you go to sleep may promote better sleep because reading is relaxing in itself! 

When we sleep better, we feel more rested, alert, and able to handle life’s challenges in a less stressed way.

3) Ability to empathize

If you’re a reading enthusiast, this is something you already know. Reading allows us to travel to another world where we can live somebody else’s life and learn about their struggles and triumphs.

This ability to empathize has been shown to improve our relationships with others by strengthening the bonds between family members, friends, coworkers, etc. Reading can even help us empathize with people we don’t like.

What reading does is allows us to see the world from someone else’s perspective, and as a result, it helps put ourselves in their shoes and understand their thinking. 

When we’re thinking about someone else, even if it’s a fictional character in a novel, or a fantasy that takes us to another dimension, we’re not focused on ourselves and our own problems.

4) Acquire valuable knowledge

No matter what type of reading you engage in, this activity allows you to expand your knowledge. From science and medicine to classic literature, reading helps us to learn more about the world we live in.

This can be especially important as you get older, especially if you’re retired and searching for something to stimulate the brain, your imagination, or setting a new goal. Reading can help keep your mind sharp, and it can stimulate new ideas for hobbies or life activities you might want to try. 

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5) Be more creative

There’s a popular myth that reading can actually crush creativity in kids—but this is absolutely not true! On the contrary, reading can make us more creative by broadening our minds and challenging our views of how the world works.

In fact, reading may even help improve our writing ability, as there is a reading-writing connection in our brains. So if you enjoy writing, have thought about writing as a hobby or even crafting your own book, you’ll gain many benefits from spending time in books.

6 ) Improve your mood

Reading can be a great way to escape from the sameness of everyday life and have fun reading something you enjoy. Whether you’re reading for fun, enjoying a classic, perusing your favorite blog, or catching up on the business side of things, reading can be an enjoyable activity that helps relieve stress and foster relaxation, ultimately uplifting our mood.

When we feel more capable and ready to deal with difficult situations, we may find them less stressful. So yes, reading relieves stress.

7 ) Provides an escape

The world we live in can be a stressful place, especially for those of us over 50. It’s easy to feel this stress on a day-to-day basis, and reading reduces those worries (at least temporarily).

While we don’t want to live in an alternate reality, it’s okay to step away from the stress of the day for an hour or so to relax and read.

Whether reading is your hobby, your occupation, or just something you enjoy doing when you have free time, it’s one great way to relieve stress! 

8) Keep your memory sharp

As we get older, most of us will start to notice some memory-related problems. This can really be a drag, and reading a book may help!

A recent study found that reading aloud was linked to improved comprehension in mature adults like us, as well as improving our memory, understanding complex texts, and strengthening emotional bonds.

And reading is also linked to other types of cognitive improvements, like improved attention and processing speed.

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9) Knowledgeable about the world we live in 

As we get older, reading becomes a valuable resource to help us learn more about the world around us and broaden our understanding of how it works. From reading science to classic literature , reading helps us learn new things and expand our horizons.

There is something to be said for spending some time away from the TV and social media in favor of a good book.

10 ) Improve overall health

From improving your cardiovascular health to helping you lose weight, reading may do more than help relieve stress!

How can reading help us to lose weight? It’s pretty simple, really. Sometimes we eat out of boredom, or habit, and that will surely sabotage our efforts to eat right and shed some pounds.

The next time you’re feeling like a snack is in order, instead of hot-footing it into the kitchen and grabbing the potato chips, grab a book and set a timer to read for 30 minutes. There’s a good chance you’ll get engrossed in the reading material and forget about the snack.

11) Better writing ability

If reading helps us learn about the world around us and broaden our horizons…it makes sense that reading would lead to improvements in our writing skills as well. After all, reading is a powerful way to learn how to write in a variety of different ways.

This may not be at the top of your list of skills to improve, my friend, but think of it this way: when you read a good book that challenges your mind and vocabulary, it will ultimately help you expand your own vocabulary.

And who doesn’t want to keep learning as they get older? I sure do. Every day I hope to glean some little piece of knowledge, and spending some time with a good book can help achieve that goal.

12) It’s fun!

No reading list should ever feel like homework, and reading for pleasure has benefits that extend beyond just helping you relax!

So go ahead, pick up a book, a magazine, a periodical, your Kindle, and spend some time relaxing, reducing stress, and just plain enjoying yourself.


Reading relieves stress in many ways, and is a wonderful way to live a healthier life. We’ve explored some of the many ways you can use reading as an outlet for reducing your own personal or chronic stress levels.

Do we need to take care of our bodies with exercise, proper nutrition, and regular self care? Of course! Those are the foundation for a healthy lifestyle as we get older. And we can build on that foundation with wise choices in activities, hobbies, and relaxation, to provide even more benefits. And yes, reading is high on the list!

Hopefully, these tips have inspired and encouraged you to read more in order to help yourself lead a happier, healthier life!

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reading relieves stress and offers so many other benefits. Here are 12!


6 thoughts on “How Reading Relieves Stress & Helps Us Enjoy Life More”

  1. Candi, Fantastic!! Being locked down in our home for about a year and a half was only doable to me because I’m such a reader!! I never read fiction but I read books for information and knowledge of a new topic. One of the best things we can do for our children is to give them a love of reading. I find the very best book to read is the Bible!!

    1. I agree, Natalie. Both of my boys are avid readers as adults, and I believe it’s because they were read to as little children. It expands our vocabulary, too! Thanks so much for your thoughts.

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