Saturday, July 15, 2017

Read your Way to Happiness

Fairytale Moods

You probably won't be surprised to hear that HAPPINESS is a core human value. What you may not realize is how much reading fiction can foster this core value, improving health, well being, creativity and even economic success. 

Positive Psychology - the study of what makes people happy - has made many advances in the last decade. Their research has revealed the habits happy people engage in. The list includes:

1. Relationship - happy people feel connected, part of a tribe or clan with friends and loved ones to share their lives with.

2. Kindness - we all have something in us called the “moral molecule” which is linked to love and pain relief. This molecule releases high levels of oxytocin (a happy brain messenger) when we care for or think about those we love.

Empathy - "I cry over anime character's problems
more than crying over my own.
3. Positive thinking - being grateful, optimistic, hopeful is another key ingredient to a happy life. 

4. Exercise - Moving the body increases happy brain messengers, making us feel more optimistic, empowered and strong. 

5. Culture - People who go out to art shows, performances, music and films and even sporting events are more likely to be happy.

6. Pets - Having cats, dogs, horses, bunnies or snakes, whichever animal captures your heart, is shown to reduce anxiety, improve the health and put a smile on your face. This could fall under the categories of relationship, kindness and exercise as well.

7. Honoring Strengths and Virtues - Studies show that happy people have discovered their unique strengths and virtues and use them for a purpose that is greater than their own personal needs.

8. Coping with Stress. Stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol put you in a constant state of 'fight or flight' - great for emergencies; hard on overall peace and relaxation.

Arden Cho plays Kira, a Kitsune in Teen Wolf (MTV)

Interestingly, reading fiction can support and amplify many of these happiness fostering habitsCompare the list below to the key habits of happy people:

1. Relationships - Reading improves our RW (real world) relationships through simulation as we explores ideas of change, emotions and the unknown. According to studies conducted by social and media psychologists, the companionship experienced with fictional characters can be very real. We care about them, love them, and connect when we fall into the story.

2. Empathy and compassion. Multiple studies have shown that imagining stories helps activate the regions of your brain responsible for compassion and seeing the world from a new perspective.

3. Reading fiction reduces stress by allowing us to disengage from our 24/7 cognitive attention. In other words, it allows us to rest. Research at the University of Sussex shows that reading is the most effective way to overcome stress, better than other methods like listening to music or taking a walk.

4. Getting enough sleep - A reading routine can help us sleep better. Tim Ferriss, sleep optimizer, suggests we read fiction before bed to engage the imagination and present-state attention (unlike non-fiction which encourages projection into the future and preoccupation/planning. 

5. Memory - Reading boosts memory, forestalling decline in later life. 

6. Inclusivity and perspective. Reading literally opens our minds, enhancing the ability to understand the perspective of unfamiliar or marginalized groups. 

7. Creativity - Research findings suggest that reading fictional literature leads to better mental processing generally, including those of creativity.

8. Overall Happiness - Surveys show that reading fiction makes people happy, plain and simple! Falling into a story is a joy unto itself.

What about you? Can you relate to these benefits of reading? Whether it's a traditional book, iPad, tablet or phone, we'd love to hear what books light you up the most.

Comments welcome, and happy reading!

Kim Falconer's latest release is out now - The Blood in the Beginning - and Ava Sykes Novel. Find this novel in a store near you.

You can also learn more about Kim at, the 11th House Blog, and on FaceBook and Twitter.  Or on where she teaches law of attraction and astrology.

Kim posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month and runs Save the Day Writer's Community on Facebook. Check out her daily Astro-LOA Flash horoscopes on Facebook.


Helen Lowe said...

I found this post really interesting, Kim. For me some books are definitely "friends" simply because the story, the characters, and often the language just 'click.' And because reading is all about taking a journey in someone else's shoes, it doesn't surprise me at all that reading is a habit that builds empathy.

Thank you for the post!

Kim Falconer said...

Hi Helen,

Glad you liked the post. It's really fascinating, isn't it? What research is showing.

I love that immersing in stories can actually help us in our RL (real life) relationships and overall well being.

What's not to love?