The health benefits of reading can be vast. There are many reasons to pick up a book, some may already be well-known but some may be a surprise! Did you know …
- Reading books could prolong your life
A Yale University study found that out of 3,600 people over the age of 50, those who said they read a book for 30 minutes or more each day lived nearly two years longer than those who read only newspapers or magazines. A longer life could be partly a result of lower levels of stress. This leads on to the next point.
- Reading can reduce stress… and help you sleep better
A study by the University of Sussex showed that six minutes of reading reduced stress by 68%. This was higher than other relaxing activities such as listening to music. As stress contributes to insomnia, reading is a good way to alleviate the stress and negative thoughts that might be preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep.
- Reading can improve your memory and help prevent cognitive decline
Reading is like a form of exercise for your brain. We use many parts of the brain when reading, including attention, reasoning, use of strategies, problem-solving, the motor mechanism for visual processing, and short-term and long-term memory. This is not the complete list but from these alone one can see how reading involves a complex network of circuits in the brain. These networks become more sophisticated the more you read.
- Reading helps to focus your mind
Reading can improve your concentration. The act of reading focuses your energy in a very effective way, as there is so much for your brain to do. When you read, all of your attention is focussed on the story or on understanding the topic. Reading more can increase your attention span as you get into the habit of focusing on one thing for a certain amount of time.
- Reading can help alleviate symptoms of depression
Depression can include feelings of isolation. Reading books can sometimes lessen this feeling. Fiction books are a way of becoming engrossed in another place and providing an escape, transporting you to another world. Non-fiction self-help books can also be helpful if they provide guidance on how to manage symptoms. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the type of book ultimately is less important. The most important thing in this case is the reader finding the book fully absorbing.
- Reading can enhance empathy
Increased empathy is more likely to come from reading fiction than non-fiction. Reading literary fiction could make one more likely to approach people in the real world with a greater level of understanding and interest. As you begin to identify with the fictitious characters, you imagine yourself in their situation and think about how you might have reacted. Often without realising it, you might also try to relate their experience to one in your own past. You feel afraid when they are in danger, you feel sad for their tragedies. You become more able to put yourself in someone else’s position and imagine what emotions they are experiencing.
- Reading will improve your writing skills
This may be a more obvious one, but reading more will help to improve your vocabulary and grammar, thus improving your writing. But it can also inspire you, and could give you a creative push in the completion of your own story or poem. It can expose you to other genres and other styles of writing, which may allow you to challenge your own style and perhaps create something different.
The act of researching the above has led me to realise that I have not been as faithful to books in recent years as I used to be, and have become more inclined to read newspapers or only undertake “compulsory” reading. I have therefore decided to update my kindle app and to read more widely and more frequently. I now make sure that I take the time to read a book at the end of the day on a few evenings each week. I hope that this piece can also inspire others to return to reading books,… after all, it seems it is good for our health!
From various studies, research and also direct experience it is becoming clear that online media is not only causing a large amount of distraction but can be detrimental to our mental health. For further information on this and how to improve your lifestyle please see the article here 6 actions to focus your mind