How Reading Books Reduces Stress and Makes You Smarter at the Same Time

Books are relaxing and improve intelligence in more ways than just imparting knowledge.

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By Emma Siemasko • Dec 17, 2014

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When I was a little kid, I spent more than a few nights under the covers with a flashlight reading books like Enders Game and Little House on The Prairie.

Were you the same way?

As working adults, we long for those special nights, but it's hard to carve out the time to make a sandwich, never mind read a book.

But now that you're building a company, reading is essential. There are scientifically-backed reasons to read entrepreneurial books.

You'll find new perspectives.

You can't learn everything from attending events and reading blog posts. The experiences, perspectives, and knowledge of other entrepreneurs can help shape how you think about running a business. The best place to get knowledge from the source is from books, especially if you have a tight budget. When you read a book, your attention is focused on what you're doing-- you're not distracted by a smartphone or a computer screen. An author can tell you their whole story with all of its moving parts.

Related: The Psychological Benefits of Writing: Why Richard Branson and Warren Buffett Write Regularly

Books make you smarter.

Yep, it's scientifically proven that books are good for your brain. With a business to run, you need your noggin' in tip-top shape.

According to psychologists, there are a few different types of intelligence:

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and respond to the feelings of yourself and others.

Fluid intelligence is the ability to solve problems.

Crystallized intelligence is the knowledge you have.

Reading can foster and improve all three types of intelligence and is good for your memory, too. According to research in an online version of Neurology, people who participated in mentally stimulating activities (such as reading books and completing math problems) had better memory retention later in life, no matter if they read as children or adults.

You'll clear your head and chill out.

Building a business eats up your energy and concentration. Even when you're not working, it's impossible to take your mind off of what you should be doing. Books are a respite from the wild entrepreneurial ride. You can pick up a book, get transported to another planet, and get totally lost in it.

Researchers at the University of Sussex found that reading is a more effective way to beat stress than listening to music or taking a walk.

"It really doesn't matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author's imagination," Dr. David Lewis, the study's researcher, told The Telegraph. "This is more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness."

Related: Bill Gates' 5 Favorite Books of 2014

Self-help books actually help people.

Running a business is demanding. You might be suffering from problems with friends and family, while struggling to take care of yourself. Before you walk past the self-help aisle in your local bookstore, consider this: those books actually work.

It's been proven that these types of books can help those suffering from depression. The University of Manchester published a report that concluded that those who are severely depressed can benefit from these books as much as others. Psychologists call this "bibliotherapy" and it appears to help those in need.

Here are four business books to get you started on regular reading.

1. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.

As business owners, we are faced with making decisions every day. What we don't realize is that many of our daily decisions aren't very rational. In Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely explains how the mind works and why we are often prone to irrational decision-making. When you're finished you'll understand what motivates your customers, as well as what compels you.

2. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

Think and Grow Rich is one of the first books to ever ask "what makes a winner?" It's an extremely motivational book about leadership, winning personalities, and historical successes. Napoleon Hill's 1937 book focuses on such entrepreneurs as Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Andrew Carnegie. The historical lessons still ring true today, making "Think and Grow Rich" well worth a read.

3. The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.

Every entrepreneur wants to be successful. Turns out, there's no way to do this without a team. The Checklist Manifesto details how to organize and empower teams so they can be way more awesome. As a surgeon, Atul Guwande knows a great deal about procedure and the various outcomes—he uses anecdotes from various industries to illustrate how a checklists can help organize and improve teams.

4. Good to Great by Jim Collins.

In the world of business there is always room for improvement. In this book, Jim Collins takes a look at twenty-eight companies that have gone from good to great and even better and the steps they've taken to do so. This book will prove that companies don't have to be "born great" but with strategic steps they can make it to the top just the same.

So, delight yourself with reading, there's nothing in the world quite like it, so pick up a book. It's now or never!

Related: 5 Uplifting Books You Should Read This Holiday Season

Emma Siemasko

Small Business Writer & Consultant

Emma Siemasko is the content-marketing specialist at Grasshopper, the entrepreneur’s phone system, and the author of JUMP: The Ultimate Guide to Starting and Growing a Business. She is also a freelance writer and small-business advocate.

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