Benefits of Reading
We think of reading as only improving our lives, but studies suggest it can improve the lives of those around us. This is because the research showed people who read literary fiction have an easier time relating to others, understanding emotions and sense them in those around them. So, taking yourself out of your own life for just 30 minutes can actually make you more tuned in to the lives of others.
Everyone has their favorite way to relieve stress. Maybe it’s going for a walk, meditating or doing yoga. A 2009 study found that reading for 30 minutes a day has those same benefits when it comes to stress relief. It reduced cortisol levels in similar amounts as 30 minutes of doing low-intensity yoga. This means blocking out a half hour at the end of the day can take your mind off of whatever happened during the rest of it.
This one’s only the case for paper books and audiobooks – no Kindle or e-readers. This is because many of us like to use our devices up until bedtime, whether it’s scrolling through Instagram, texting a loved one or watching a movie. But the blue light emitted by these devices throws off our biological clock and suppresses melatonin production, meaning it’s harder to fall asleep and stay in a restful sleep. Reading a book for 30 minutes before bedtime is a great transition period to stay off your phone and wind down for the night.
Reading 30 minutes a day strengthens your brain.
A broad variety of research studies show that sleep can quite literally change your brain. When brain scans are taken after consistent reading for only 10 days, brain connectivity increases. This was especially true in the somatosensory cortex, the part of the brain that senses movement. The brain was more active and stronger due to the way reading affects it.
Similar to scheduling a workout in your day, less is often more. You don’t need to run a half marathon every day to see improvements in your fitness, just like you don’t need to finish a book in a night to see the benefits of reading. Schedule 30 minutes a day, and know you’re doing something great for yourself, your mental health, your sleep schedule, and even your loved ones.
Other Benefits of Reading
Increases your vocabulary. By reading you expose yourself to new words which allows for understanding on another level.
Improves your concentration. Reading requires time, patience and concentration. It forces you to use your brain by reasoning out things that are unfamiliar.
Reading helps with depression. According to studies at The University of Liverpool, reading helped patients suffering from depression with their social well-being. It helped build self-confidence, lessening cultural isolation, building a sense of community and fostering increased communication skills.
Reading aids in mental wellbeing. In studies from the University of Liverpool, reading not only improves power of concentration, it helps your wellbeing by encouraging enthusiasm in learning while increasing verbalized and internalized thought.
Allows you to understand others. Reading helps you connect with people you would ordinarily struggle to understand. For instance, reading about other people’s culture or countries help you create connections to those people or those places. Books based on the lives and experiences of others is one way to get a small insight into someone else’s life. And it helps us relate to how other people are feeling.
Reading fiction or nonfiction certainly gets you much closer to being in another person’s head. Thoughts from others are much better understood in our brains on a deeper level compared to hearing or viewing a television show or film. Through film you only see the actor’s actions rather than their thoughts.
Reading improves academic performance. Reading is like weight training for your brain. Your brain is of course an organ. However, it does have the properties of a muscle. It can be trained to be more agile and sharper.
Agility, this case, refers to the speed and nimbleness of your brain. We all have had days when it feels like our brain is fogged up—you can’t think as clearly and are fumbling over remembering things. On days like this, your brain is the opposite of agile. This can be remedied by reading.
Creativity. Our thinking brain, is a pattern recognition device. It’s primary function of building and retrieving memories is built on pattern recognition. Sometimes you’re thinking of something and your mind wanders, and then you realize you’ve arrived somewhere else totally different in your thinking or imagining.
Ordinarily, these seemingly random connections happen at the subliminal level. Then you realize you’ve answered some question you’ve been tossing around in your mind or you come up with some great idea you were not thinking about initially. This is how creativity happens. Reading helps train your mind to see patterns where others might not and come up with insightful ideas.
Written words stimulate the mind to create images. Visual imagery is programmed into the human brain. We identity photos and objects much faster simply by reading a sentence that described the appearance of an object without us trying.
The increased vocabulary, concentration and communication skills gained from reading improves our writing abilities.
Memory. Reading improves our memory. There is almost a “use it or lose it” metaphor that can be applied here. Information rarely accessed and behaviors seldom used cause a decrease in those neural pathways until connections may be completely lost in a process called synaptic pruning.
We can unknowingly contribute to our brain’s decline by not challenging it. Activities like reading, jigsaw puzzles, and chess give your brain a workout and keep it actively stimulated.
Enjoy these links to short videos about reading and how it affects the