People Who Do This Regularly Are Happier & More Confident

Photographed by Winnie Au.
It's high time you call up your grade school librarian and thank them. A recent poll has found that reading for pleasure can have an immensely positive impact on your life, from how you treat others to how you view yourself. More simply, the poll suggests that reading books of your choice makes you happy.

Conducted by Quick Reads, a U.K. program for adult readers, and the Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society at the University of Liverpool, the poll posed 17 questions to 2,000 adults. The questions all related to their reading habits, asking why and when they read, how they choose what they read, and what effects reading has had in their lives in general. The participants were also asked to name specific fictional characters who were inspirational figures to them.

The results were by and large positive, especially in how regular reading encourages self-improvement. A little more than 1 in 4 (or 27%) of those polled said reading inspired them to make a positive change in their life, like ending a toxic relationship or seeking a more fulfilling job. As one female responder wrote: "Reading gave me the confidence to undergo a career change at 39." One in 10 said reading helps them feel more confident in general.

Many considered reading to be a great motivator, but it was also widely used as a source of relaxation, with 41% of responders placing reading above a night out with friends as a better way to de-stress. Reading even beat out a glass of wine and a bubble bath as what most people choose when looking for a comforting activity.

Meanwhile, nearly half of the respondents said reading made them more sympathetic to the beliefs of others. Some went so far as to say that reading about other experiences and cultures made them more tolerant. Past studies have similarly suggested that reading literary fiction can heighten our sense of empathy, as the experience allows us to see another's point of view.

The researchers even went into people's feelings about specific characters. The number one most inspirational character in fiction? According to this poll, both men and women agreed that honor goes to Atticus Finch. The number two spot differed for men and women — the former chose Frodo Baggins while the latter went with Katniss Everdeen. The poll failed to ask whether these characters inspired the responders to lead major dystopian uprisings or take very, very long walks.

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