Readaxation? Free stress relief? Prove it! By Nicola Morgan

TGTS_PC_46930_HR_UK_opt-220x330For many children and young people this time of year is one full of stress – whether its SATS, GSCEs or A levels, at exam time it can be tricky to relax. So today I’m really delighted to have a post all about the link between reading for pleasure and relaxation from Nicola Morgan, author of Blame My Brain – The Amazing Teenage Brain Revealed and (July 2014) The Teenage Guide to Stress, both from Walker Books.

Nicola would love your help – read on to find out about reading, relaxing and how children and young people in your families, schools and book groups could get involved in some interesting research!

Over to Nicola:-

“Wouldn’t it be great if it were proven that reading for pleasure was a good stress-reliever? Hang on, you say: it is proven! When I enter the words reading best stress relief research into a search engine, I come up with 2.3 million results, the first of which begins, “It is a proven fact that reading can help reduce stress.” The references date back to March 30 2009. Because this is the problem: there was only one piece of research and it was very small, though conducted by eminent neuropsychologist David Lewis at the University of Sussex. It had a beautiful result (that reading for six minutes was better at lowering heart rate and relaxing muscles than all other strategies tested) but it only used sixteen people. I’m not criticising the research – how could I when I love the result so much? I’m saying it’s not enough. We need more. (Hold that thought.)

It does make sense, doesn’t it? As Dr Lewis suggests, “By losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book, you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world…” We, as keen readers, feel that it must be true.

So, ignoring the lack of sufficient proof, I’ve included reading to relax in The Teenage Guide to Stress. I even give it a name: readaxation – the act of reading specifically to relax.

There are reasons why readaxation is really important when we think about teenagers:

  • They have less time to spare than when they were younger and find it harder to make time to relax. (I came across this view a lot while researching TTGS.)
  • They’re under more pressure to work hard than when they were younger, and may feel guilty about relaxing.
  • They have more social distractions now. Peer pressure is important – it’s how teenagers find their place in social structures outside the home they’re going to leave soon.
  • There’s strong evidence that daily reading for pleasure in adolescence benefits grades. (see

  • Why am I telling you this, when you know these things? Because I want your help.

    Since we lack sufficient research, let’s do it ourselves, in our reading groups, schools and families. OK, I know this won’t be scientific. But indulge me and let’s do an interesting project!

    I’ve devised this online questionnaire and a Readaxation diary . All you need do is:

    a) Tell people about the survey – suitable for all readers, though under-12s may need help.

    b) Give the Readaxation Diary to reading groups/students/anyone willing to fill it in for a week.

    c) If you have time, let me know the results. I’d love to know how many pupils noticed a reduction in stress after reading.

    As I say, not scientific but the aim is to get young people to think about whether reading reduces their stress and, if so, to see it as a valuable activity, not just indulgence. Unrelieved stress is bad for us; if we can reduce it by the simple (and free) act of readaxation then let’s do it!”

    Yes, let’s do it! My thanks to Nicola for such an interesting post today, and best of luck to all book group members who have exams coming up!

    URL for the online questionnaire:

    Click here to download the Readaxation diary to use at home, in your book group or at school!

    Nicola Morgan writes, speaks and blogs about reading, the brain, teenage brain, mental health and teenage stress and produces a free Brain Sane newsletter. She is the creator and presenter of BRAIN STICKS™, multimedia teaching materials for healthy brains and minds.

    Nicola’s website:
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    Nicola on Twitter: @nicolamorgan
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    2 responses to “Readaxation? Free stress relief? Prove it! By Nicola Morgan”

    1. […] stress – unfortunately, the evidence is either anecdotal or based on a very small study, but the results are…and a lot of us are convinced it is a definite […]

    2. […] just written a guest post on the blog of the wonderful Federation of Children’s Book Groups, about the research (or […]