A 2009 study found that the average American consumes 34 gigabytes of content and 100,000 words of information every day, certainly more than our ancestors ever handled—the iPhone had barely been out for 1 year, who knows how much information we take in today. We swim in an increasingly turbulent sea of information and stories: the ones we tell ourselves, the ones we tell others, the ones we hear on the news, and the ones we choose to watch on Netflix—and read in books, listen to on podcasts, and follow on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Research suggests these stories have powerful impacts on our well-being.
1. Understand What Information Helps You
Some forms of narrative are deeply nourishing. A study at the New School for Social Research found that reading literary fiction especially (as opposed to best-selling thrillers or romances) helps people develop skills they need in social relationships, like the ability to see from another person’s perspective. In particular, participants who read literary fiction were better able to read emotions in other people’s eyes—a critical skill for determining the state of mind of another person.
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