The Reading And Writing Habits

   • Get into the reading habit to increase your empathy and communication skills, as well as relax. Anything goes, but literary fiction is best for strengthening perspective and “theory of mind” ability.

   • Journaling or keeping a diary can make you happier and help you modulate and regulate your emotions. Try whatever form works best for you.

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It’s hard to find any commendable person who doesn’t claim that reading played a big part in their success. We all know that reading is an excellent way to learn, to broaden your horizons, to cultivate discipline, to spur your creativity, and even to connect empathically with others. Reading is great! But there also happens to be sound scientific evidence for reading as habit that boosts your mental wellbeing, too.

When you read, magic can happen. You become engrossed in a whole new fictional world, with novel characters and a plot that pulls you in. A study from the University of Liverpool found that people who read experienced lower stress levels than those who didn’t, not to mention they had higher self-esteem and psychological resilience.

Again, we can thank studies done using MRIs for our ability to examine the brain’s activity during reading. When you read, your neural circuitry and networks are strengthened as you absorb yourself in the narrative. Humans really are built, it seems, for stories.


That’s not all, though. In trying to understand the characters and the plot unfolding in the pages, our brains work hard to empathize and take on new perspectives, which in itself is a powerful way to boost happiness levels. Reading is like empathy and compassion gym! Reading literary fiction (i.e. stories that delve into the inner worlds of the characters) boosts our “theory of mind” ability, which is our capacity for imagining the mental worlds of others. This helps us become more empathic and intelligent communicators, which has effects on our real-world relationships.


Reading has loads of other impressive benefits:

• Improves vocabulary and comprehension

• Boosts IQ

• Reduces stress level

• Counteracts anxiety and depression symptoms

• Reduces age-related cognitive decline

• Is just fun!

To conclude, reading is one of those daily habits that indirectly contributes to our overall happiness and wellbeing. Because reading has such far-reaching benefits for health, cognitive abilities, and verbal/communication skills, it works in every area of life to make us more alert, responsive, empathetic, and overall more engaged with the world around us.

What should we be reading? Well, anything we like!

is better (Lauren M. Singer,:

Blogs, graphic novels, news pieces, and long-form articles also count, but try to read them properly rather than just skimming and hurrying on to the next thing. If you can, try to focus intently on reading what’s in front of you, somewhere quiet where you won’t be distracted. This will help you cultivate discipline and focused attention. Finally, though reading in itself is a fantastic daily habit, you can boost its effects by choosing material that makes you happy. Read things that inspire, excite, or entertain you.

Dear happiness…

Matthew Lieberman is a psychologist at UCLA, and his research has suggested that putting your difficult thoughts and feelings down in black and white can actually help you overcome them. He conducted a simple experiment where he asked volunteers to have brain scans and then afterwards write in a journal or diary for 20 minutes a day, for four days.

Half of the participants were asked to write about neutral experiences – just whatever they thought of. The other half were asked to write down their more emotional experiences, thoughts, and feelings. Then he scanned their brains again. Can you guess what he found?

Compared to those who wrote neutrally, the people who wrote down their emotions demonstrated greater brain activity in the area of the brain called the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain is concerned with emotional regulation, so the conclusion is that, by writing feelings down, these participants were actually working to modulate and manage those experiences. Likewise, as the researchers investigating the meditators brains found, there was also lowered activity in the amygdala, suggesting that journaling helped people manage the intensity of their negative emotions. Overall, this technique seemed to help people process emotions and downregulate stress and unhappiness.

"Writing seems to help the brain regulate emotion unintentionally. Whether it's writing things down in a diary, writing bad poetry, or making up song lyrics that should never be played on the radio, it seems to help people emotionally," Dr Lieberman said. Interestingly, Lieberman found that men seemed to benefit even more from this activity than women, perhaps because, for men, the act of expressing emotions abstractly is more of a novelty than it is for women. In any case, everyone can benefit from keeping a diary, and they don’t necessarily have to discover great insights or come to any solutions or conclusions. Rather, the act of writing seems to help us externalize and make abstract our experience, which helps us manage and regulate it better.

If the idea of keeping a journal seems a little corny, don’t worry, you can achieve the same benefits in other ways. The idea is simply to express and externalize your emotions in an abstract way, and you can do that with visual art, colors, music (maybe a playlist?), collage, doodling, short story writing, or even a messy combination of all of these.

Just remember to keep your diary private, especially if you’re writing down very personal thoughts, and bear in mind that you are not trying to create a masterpiece to show off. Your diary doesn’t have to make sense or be beautiful; it just needs to be a place where you can slow down, process, and put what’s in your head down onto the page.

Try to journal every day, if you can. You can purchase readymade journals or make your own. You can go for a line a day or fill up reams and reams of paper with “automatic” style writing. A great habit is to keep your journal next to your bed and scribble down your feelings before sleep – get your worries out of your head and down on to paper so they won’t disturb your sleep!

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The Science of Self
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Russell Newton