Self-Help Books Can’t Do It All

How Reading Fiction Can Benefit You

 
Many CEOs and other successful individuals continually espouse the benefits of regular reading. Many times, leaders read self-help books to improve their leadership skills and become more successful.

This is all well and good, but even the most successful people in the world could be missing out on the unique benefits that come specifically from reading fiction. But what are those benefits exactly?
 

Greater Empathy

When a psychologist analyzed 86 functioning MRI (fMRI) studies, he found that the same parts of the brain that fire up when reading fictional stories also fire up when we’re seeking to understand the thoughts and feelings of others. That’s because when the characters in the book we’re reading are thinking or feeling a certain way, we tend to think or feel that way with them.
 

Less Stress and Better Sleep

When we read fiction specifically, we tend to disengage from the world — and that’s a good thing! Our brains can’t always be functioning at their peak capacity. We need breaks, or else we’ll stress ourselves out and negatively affect other areas of our lives. Stress tends to keep us from sound sleep, but reading fiction before bed engages the imagination, taking us away from the stresses of everyday life before we drift off.
 

More Comfort With Uncertainty

Even though many stories (particularly those portrayed in popular movies) have nice happy endings, most people would agree that life sometimes leaves things a little more open-ended. While this fact might stress out some people, researchers have discovered that fiction readers don’t need “cognitive closure” as much as nonfiction readers.
 

Greater Happiness

Even if none of the benefits of fiction interest you, everyone wants to find ways to make themselves happy — and for many, that is reading fiction. According to one survey, 76% of participants said that reading makes them feel good and improves their lives. So, what are you waiting for? Dust off that novel you’ve been meaning to read and crack it open!
 

-Randy Sklar

 

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