Finally. Something you love is good for your health.

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You know how reading makes you feel. 

It can make you laugh. It can make you cry. It can make you feel a little less alone. Reading a good story brings out the full range of emotions.

But how does reading make you think?

New Canadian research suggests that reading literary fiction has a huge and positive impact on our mind — increasing empathy, improving decision-making, reducing our anxiety and fear of ambiguity. Two recently published University of Toronto studies found that:

  • frequent fiction readers have higher levels of cognitive empathy (the ability to understand what another person is feeling) than non-frequent readers. But not to worry–even reading one short story was found to increase a person’s ability to empathize.
  • reading short stories (as opposed to reading an essay) helps to ease the need for cognitive closure (the need to eliminate ambiguity and arrive at definite conclusions), leading to better, more rational decision-making and increased creativity. The study identified short-term changes in thinking, suggesting that more long-term research is needed to see the culminative affects of reading. But it did find that the more we read, the better the outcome. Quoting the study, “When one reads fictional literature, one is encouraged to simulate other minds, and is thereby released from concerns for urgency and permanence.”

This research suggests that reading fiction is more than a form of escapism. It is an important tool for human development and happiness. More good reasons to encourage children to  read, and to keep reading throughout our lives. And the more you do it, the greater the benefit. You can’t say that about cake. Unless, of course, it’s a book cake. I think it’s quite possible that book cake could be good for you!

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book-cake image via

4 comments

  1. Reblogged this on A Simple Life and commented:
    Perhaps this is why I have so much empathy (and I think that my kids do too)… good thoughts about the value of reading stories:

  2. I’ve been thinking about the subject of how stories make us feel, and it is so good for me to THINK about how they make us THINK too! I really appreciate how you mention children and reading–the influence of the two. I’ll remember this entry for future reference. Thanks!!

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