Bridal Book Club, Anyone? How Reading a Novel Can Boost Your Mood

Reading Novels Zaps Stress

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Brides, if you're having one of those days, try this lesser-known anxiety-reliever for a little pick-me-up: Grab a novel and disappear into a few chapters. Call it bibliotherapy, but as it turns out, there's something to the idea of books helping to zap stress.

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In fact, it's the hypothesis of a new study, published by psychologists at Emory University, who found that not only does reading novels improve brain function, but it also may help reduce your anxiety. "The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist," writes the study's lead author Gregory Bern. In other words: Reading can transport you from your stressed out reality to another world, and give you a shot of courage in the process. Bonus: The good-for-your-mind effects of reading last for hours, even days after finishing a great novel, say the researchers.

So why not put reading on your weekly to-do list? (Full disclosure: I'm a novelist so I'm a bit biased in favor of the idea!) Pack a great book along with you for your commute on the train home instead of zoning out with your music and text messages. Or, rather than turn on The Bachelor on Monday nights, pick up a classic novel and actually read about a romantic hero instead!

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The late American novelist James Baldwin said it best: "You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive."

Now that's stress relief.

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