I’m sure you like fictional stories. And who doesn’t? You can become a king, a pirate, a 10-year old fairy, or a 50-year old astronaut – all thanks to the magic of words!
Even if you’re an avid fan of nonfiction books and think everything else is just nonsense, you started here. With fairytales, fantasy, sci-fi, with Cinderella or Sherlock Holmes, with stories of the past, present, or the future.
Your first-ever novel is where your childhood started.
But does it mean you have to abandon them altogether as soon as adulthood kicks in? (What even is that mysterious adulthood, I still can’t fully grasp the idea.)
Why read fiction if it’s just a waste of time?
Well, I’m here to prove to you that it’s not!
Nonfiction can give you facts and helpful guidelines, but even a simple romance novel has a few secret cards up its sleeve.
Down below I listed the top 10 benefits of reading fiction – and yes, these are just at the top of the list. You can find even more yourself by reading more and gaining unique knowledge from every story.
But it’s not enough to read just one book to get all these great things at once.
You have to have a regular habit, daily even, to get results as soon as possible. Make reading your hobby or a part of your self-care routine (and check another post of mine to learn the best way to do it).
Allow your mind to get lost in the world of fiction, and you’ll come back to reality with a lighter heart and clearer sight!
Empathy is the ability to understand or feel another person’s experience as your own. Not like a superpower (although, in a way, it is) but like a skill you can learn and practice every day.
And fiction is one of the best ways to do it!
When you read a character’s thoughts and feelings, when you know what it’s like for them to be a part of the story, you also learn what it’s like to be someone else. Not a magician or a military officer but a person with experience and worldview distinct from yours.
Your reaction to the events in the story may be different from the character’s – and it’s great! Because while you experience your own emotions, you can also experience theirs.
You develop empathy from reading a book. (Proved by science, duh.)
Your brain learns what it’s like to be someone else and, with time, starts to apply this knowledge in real life. Isn’t it a superpower after all?
Shows Your Life in a New Light
And after you read a novel with all these different points of view? When you look at their world with their eyes – and then come back to your own?
Some pieces of that fictional world linger. That character’s thoughts and emotions will stay with you for longer – and will slightly change the way you look at your own life.
Familiar with a book hangover? It’s when you finish reading an incredible fiction book (or series of books) but aren’t ready to face the reality.
It’s when your brain gets so immersed in the world of the book and the main character’s experience that now you have to accept your own life all over again.
Of course, it’s an extreme example – usually, your attention will jump to something else in a matter of hours. But it shows how a bit of every book stays with you and teaches your brain something new about the world you live in.
To read a fiction book, uhh, any book actually, you have to be able to imagine its contents. It’s the basic requirement, otherwise, these very words would mean nothing to you.
But what if I told you imagination can go beyond the basics? That it can evolve and have an impact on your day-to-day life?
When you think about imagination, you probably imagine (the irony, huh?) something related to art and children. Maybe a child’s drawings or a composer’s piece of music.
But imagination helps us every day! It’s where all our plans and dreams come from, it’s why you can decide what you’ll eat for dinner and how you’ll spend the weekend. It’s everything that isn’t a part of the present or the past.
You can’t see the future, so imagination is all that’s left. And the more you practice and expand it, the more possible tomorrows you can imagine.
Helps to Find Unique Solutions
And the more outcomes of any given situation you imagine, the more solutions you can find!
Better even, when your imagination works to the fullest, you can predict where every decision will lead. And if you don’t want to go that way, you can reject the whole idea from the very start.
But it’s not the only way a fiction book can help you deal with a real-life problem.
Sometimes a story teaches you directly, it becomes a guide to how you should and shouldn’t behave. The most obvious example of it is fairytales and their effects on children. What child doesn’t know that lying is bad after reading Pinocchio?
But adults can grasp even more complicated lessons in fictional stories, lessons about love and pain, dedication and fear, about life itself.
Remember, fictional doesn’t mean mythical – ‘War and Peace’ and ‘The Plague’ are novels as well.
I bet you know how calming an evening with a good book can be. When it’s just you, and the characters, and the other world, and maybe a cup of tea or a fluffy blanket.
Reading is an amazing self-care tool, and it’s not just a figure of speech. It’s a fact backed up by science!
Researchers from Sussex University conducted a study in 2009 and proved that reading can relieve stress. And not by a tiny fraction, no, by almost 70%!
More even, you don’t have to spend hours with a book – the effects will kick in after just about 6 minutes of reading.
Although it isn’t all about fiction – figures from the study are true for any kind of text. It’s all about the way your brain’s attention switches from your thoughts to the written words.
But let’s be real, nothing else is as immersive as a fictional story. Nothing else will keep your brain as active and engaged as a good novel.
Calms Negative Thoughts
In the same way you forget about everyday stress with a book, your mind can get distracted from depressive thoughts and anxiety.
When depression comes over to pay a visit, there are not so many places you can hide in. But a fiction book is one of them.
Your mind needs an escape from reality, and what can be a better way to do it than immerse yourself in another world? Not necessarily a fantastical one, but just a place where you can be someone else entirely. Somewhere you don’t have to face your current thoughts and feelings.
A retreat is not the best way to win a battle – but at least you come out of it safe and sound.
Better be comfortable in the skin of a pirate than hate your own. And by the time you’ll finish with a chapter (or a few of them), your mind will absorb enough joy to keep going.
There’s even such thing as bibliotherapy! Wikipedia says it helps with depression, and I don’t know what about you, but I tend to trust it.
Teaches Something New
One of the biggest benefits of reading fiction is that you learn something with every chapter, every short story. Sounds incredible?
If you’re a fan of nonfiction, I bet you’re chuckling right now – what can a fictional story teach? How to perform magic spells or fight with a sword?
Well, count these too! You never know when a magical ability will come in handy, wink-wink.
But you don’t have to read explicit, one-by-one guidelines to absorb new knowledge. A book doesn’t have to contain fun facts or real-life stories to offer you unique lessons you’ve never seen before.
Every point in this list, from empathy to happiness, is something you learn from a book.
Even if the book is about, let’s say, a hobbit that agrees on an adventure – he teaches you that being brave enough to leave your comfort zone makes life fascinating, legendary even. Or maybe the book is about a young woman that allows her pride and prejudice (I couldn’t be more subtle, could I) to stand in the way of her heart desire? Well, the lesson is in the question already.
It’s not the kind of knowledge you’ll find in an academic text or blog article – but it’s an important part of your life all the same.
The thing about interesting lessons is that they make you want to learn more.
When you were a student, did you have a favorite teacher? The one that made every new lesson exciting and left you with precious memories about the subject itself?
A good teacher knows how to motivate students to want to learn more, and that’s exactly what a good book will do. After all, a book is a special kind of teacher, don’t you think?
And when you read a historical novel, you get more and more curious about how people lived in the past. Science fiction will leave you wondering if we’ll ever be able to reach such a level of technology and what it’s gonna bring.
Even fantasy can boost your imagination (remember, point #2) to the point where you’ll start fantasizing about your own worlds and, who knows, maybe write a book about them someday?
Nothing makes you want to express thoughts and feelings through art as art itself.
There are many sources of inspiration – nature, personal experience, daily life, every little thing can inspire you to write, or draw, or sing, or do just about anything to communicate your thoughts. But you wouldn’t know how to draw a painting if you’d never tried as a child.
Every fiction book or even a simple story is the author’s way to express themselves. To share with you, the reader, their thoughts, their emotions, their experience, their imagination.
And when you see another person’s heart and mind laid out like that, you learn how to do it yourself. You learn that it’s possible to put your own thoughts and fantasies into words and share them with someone else too.
But not only through words! Art inspires creativity, and creativity can present itself in every shape and size.
More even, there’s a practical side to it too. Creativity affects not only your personal mindset but your professional life as well – thinking outside of the box is an important asset.
Originality is what counts these days.
Makes You Happier
Last but not least, reading is just a nice and relaxing thing to do!
We already talked about stress relief and distraction from negativity, but this is something more. You don’t have to have a special reason to grab a book and just enjoy it to the fullest.
There are even more benefits of reading fiction than the ones I listed here, but all of them come down to this. Books make you happier.
So, if you’re wondering how to spend your free time in a pleasant and productive way, grab a book! And if you need a recommendation, leave a comment down below, and I’ll give you something interesting.
Of course, not every book is available any time of the day – but there are eBooks and audiobooks you can carry everywhere. These days you don’t have to have a backpack full of printed books to enjoy their content. All you need is a quiet place and a bit of free time.
And if you’re interested in learning different ways to read a title, check this post of mine! It has everything you need to find a book format that works just for you.