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Can Music and Reading Relieve Stress? Science Thinks So

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Art – from literature to music, abstract expressionism to painting – has long been known to help people overcome the struggles of daily life. This is something that goes without saying to anybody who’s ever found comfort in a piece of music, escape in a book, or even a challenge in a piece that defies expectations and shows us a new vision of the world.

While many of us use art in this way, it may surprise us to find out that there are solid scientific studies which indicate that these benefits are a result of biological mechanisms.

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Now, some of you are probably thinking that this research is telling you something you already aware of – but while music is linked to a tradition of mood management (rocking out The Pixies, losing yourself in IDM, or even giving into the cheese factor on local radio), there are other art forms that work just as well. Plus, when you consider what 2016 has thrown at us, it may be worth giving something else a shot!

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A recent study by Voucherbox found that more than 1 in 10 people in the UK today suffer from a fear of personal failure – plus a range of other phobias. Fear is clearly linked with stress and low stamina, so anything we can do to improve our well-being will have a big impact. While the above research shows self-help books can be a great way to reduce fear, and thus stress, there are other options, and when considering your health, it’s a good idea to tackle things from every available avenue. 

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According to the New Yorker, reading – or bibliotherapy – is the ancient practice of using reading for therapeutic effect. As with music, this seems something of a no-brainer, pardon the pun, because once again we find neurological proof for the benefits of something humans have known since the birth of the written word.

After only six minutes of reading, subjects found their heart rates lowered, their muscles relaxed, and an overall reduction in their levels of stress. There is something about the process of being taken into another world, it seems, and temporarily leaving the problems of this one behind, which is good for both heart and soul.

In fact, of all the tried and tested relaxation methods applied by DR Lewis in the above study, reading was by far best, resulting in a stress reduction factor of 68%.

To readers, this will come as no surprise. But many with busy schedules may be left cold by the news that something requiring a large amount of time and concentration can relieve stress. 

However, there’s good news for the busy, the bibliophobe and the downright lazy. And it’s really no surprise that audiobooks can offer just as good an experience as reading, when you consider that human beings have been hearing stories for thousands of years. Before there was kindle, there was paper, before paper, scroll, and before scroll, of course, there was the oral tradition of storytelling.

When you think about it, it all adds up. The best ways of doing anything are the methods that stick around, and in the grand scheme of things, nothing’s got as much staying power as art – including music!

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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