Jul 02, 2020   Melanin Magic

5 Ways Reading Makes You Happier and More Successful

Author by : Victoria Peel-Yates

I have a confession: I've become a compulsive non-fiction reader.

Like many freelancers and entrepreneurs, personal and business development literature has dominated my reading list in recent years. I've waded through books on history, psychology, economics, spirituality, and quantum physics, as well as more practical ones focused on productivity, branding, and marketing.

It wasn't always this way. As a child, I was a voracious reader of fiction.
My parents used to tell me off for staying up late at night, exploring other worlds by torchlight under the covers.

Later, I studied literature in English, Spanish, and French. But when I left my career to become self-employed, I thought I should focus on books that would help me grow, learn, and continuously improve. And I was right about that. But as it turns out, I was wrong to kick my fiction habit.

The good news for fiction lovers like me is that recent research has shown reading fiction can make you happier and significantly improve your wellbeing. Not only that, but it can even help you grow your business and make you more successful!

Sound stranger than fiction? Read on to find out how.

Empathy - See tyhings from someone else'e perspective


  1. Increases Empathy

When you read fiction, you automatically take on the perspective of the characters in the book, even if you don't realize it. To follow the plot, you must imagine what they think and feel, much of which is between the lines.
Therefore, it is necessary to put yourself in their shoes to understand their actions.

This is essentially a simulator for your brain that trains your "empathy muscles." It prepares you for situations that you may encounter in real life and can help you to navigate them more easily. 
Studies have also shown that people who read fiction display greater levels of altruism.

And why is altruism important?

Well, carrying out acts of altruism may actually make you happier, although if you have selfish motives, they negate the positive effects. Not only that, but regular acts of kindness will make for better relations with your clients, business partners, and employees — which is bound to be great for your business!

Reading Fiction - 8 Ways to make you happier and more successful-Imagination and creativity

  1. Emotional Intelligence

Additionally, increased empathy means higher emotional intelligence, or EQ. Your EQ helps you to navigate complex social situations that you may encounter in your life. Thanks to the simulator effect of reading fiction, you can mentally prepare for these situations before you come across them.

A higher EQ helps you to handle tricky situations by increasing your capacity to understand the actions of others, and reading about relationships between fictitious characters can help prepare you for real-life encounters. In business, as in life, mutual understanding is the key to a successful relationship, so increasing your EQ is essential for growing your business.

"Fiction is a kind of simulation, one that runs not on computers but on minds: a simulation of selves in their interactions with others in the social world...based in experience, and involving being able to think of possible futures"

by Keith Oatley,  Cognitive psychologist

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, tested whether the novels of Harry Potter could be used as a tool for improving attitudes toward stigmatized groups.

Life is complicated. Oftentimes, interpersonal relationships and challenges don't have the simple resolutions we might like.

Reading Fiction : 8 Ways to make you happier and more successful

A young children, with the help of a teacher, were able to understand that Harry's frequent support of "mudbloods" was an allegory towards bigotry in real-life society.

How can we become more accepting of this reality?


  1. Boosts Creativity

Often, fiction leaves a lot to the imagination. Authors deliberately leave out details to keep you guessing — sometimes, even the ending forces you to play out your own version in your mind.

You may not realize it, but this is a powerful exercise for strengthening your creativity — and creativity is one of our most valuable resources as creatives and entrepreneurs.

A study published in Creativity Research Journal asked students to read either a short fictional story or a non-fiction essay and then measured their emotional need for certainty and stability.

Researchers discovered that the fiction readers had less need for "cognitive closure" than those who read non-fiction, and added:

"These findings suggest that reading fictional literature could lead to better procedures of processing information generally, including those of creativity."
Reading Fiction : 8 Ways to make you happier and more successful

"Fiction reading would increase vocabulary size ...-it makes sense, after all, considering that fiction tends to use a greater variety of words than non-fiction does. However, we hadn't expected its effect to be this prominent."

Reading Fiction : 8 Ways to make you happier and more successful

  1. Reduces Stress

No one can run a successful business in burn out.

Every successful business owner knows that keeping their stress levels in check is just as important as having a clear vision and strategy.

It turns out that reading fiction is even more effective at reducing stress than other common stress-busters such as going for a walk or listening to music. Researchers believe that it imitates meditation by bringing the mind's concentration into the present moment. Like meditation, this slows the heart rate and helps the muscles to relax, releasing tension in the body.


  1. Improves Sleep

As a result of its relaxation-inducing effects, it's hardly surprising that reading fiction promotes better sleep.

And I can attest to this! Since learning about this research, I have re-embraced my inner bookworm. I incorporated reading novels into my nighttime routine, and the results have surprised me.
Not only am I sleeping more deeply through the night, but I have also been having more vivid dreams!

Sleep quality, of course, is linked to better decision-making, greater mental clarity, and increased productivity, all of which are vital for running and growing a successful business. Not only that, but sleep is the foundation for physical and mental health and vitality — so reading fiction is literally good for your health!

"Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers."

by The New Yorker reports


Creating a sleep ritual is a great way to build up a consistent sleep pattern. One of the key things is to have the last activity completely disengage you from the tasks of the rest of your day.


So there you have it — five ways reading fiction can make you happier and more successful. An important remedy !

Are you surprised or does it confirm what you suspected all along?

What's the first book you're going to read?
We are still getting through this list of 10 Books #CuratedBookshelf

Welcoming our newest Content Creator, Victoria Peel-Yates. She is a qualified yoga teacher and holistic health coach, and she loves to ponder life's big questions.