Readers Rejoice: Proof that Books Make You Happier

Readers Rejoice: Proof that Books Make You Happier

If you’re a book-lover, you’ll love this. Readers are happier than those who avoid flipping through books, and it’s proven by science.

The New Yorker published an article in June 2015 that brought up the little-known practice of bibliotherapy. It shared the idea that “regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers.”

Bibliotherapy is simply defined as “is an expressive therapy that uses an individual’s relationship to the content of books and poetry and other written words as therapy.”

Because that definition is very broad, there have been many forms of bibliotherapy throughout history. From the Ancient Greeks, who referred to their libraries as a place of peaceful worship, to more modern times, when bibliotherapy was more associated with self-help books and guides, it is a practice that has remained important around the world. But what does bibliotherapy mean today? Well, a few things. But most importantly, the practice seeks to connect the reader with works of fiction that will help him or her overcome their problems (like feeling stuck in a rut at work, or fear over becoming a parent), or otherwise, to simply make the reader a better person, with a better understanding of life around them.


How? Because readers have been shown to be masters of empathy. New research in the past 10 years has shown that reading does have a positive effect on the brain. “Mirror neurons” are neurons that fire in the brain both when you complete an activity and when you see someone else doing the activity. When MRIs were conducted, these “mirror neurons” fired the same way when reading about an experience in a book. 

So where does fiction come in? Studies showed that people who read fiction novels are better at empathizing with others than non-readers. Another study showed that reading literary fiction improved social perception. Basically, those who read books have a better understanding of the world–because they don’t just sympathize with other’s bad experiences, but they can understand and empathize with them.

Whether you participate in professional bibliotherapy, or simply are an avid visitor of the library and bookstores (or own a Kindle or Nook for that matter), one thing is for sure: reading is an important and positive step in developing into a kind and understanding adult.


Besides being happier and healthier, it’s also proven that readers are more successful than non-readers, so keep it up bookworms! And if you haven’t read a book since 12th grade English class, maybe it’s time to start. Here’s a good list to get the ball rolling.

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