In a world of omnipresent screens, it can be easy to forget the simple pleasure of curling up with a good book. In fact, a HuffPost/YouGov poll of 1,000 U.S. adults found that 28 percent hadn’t read one at all in the past year.
But the truth is that reading books can be more than entertainment or a high school English assignment. A study released earlier this month suggests that enjoying literature might help strengthen your “mind-reading” abilities. The research, published in the journal Science, showed that reading literary works (though, interestingly, not popular fiction) cultivates a skill known as “theory of mind,” which NPR describes as the “ability to ‘read’ the thoughts and feelings of others.”
And that’s hardly the only way being a bookworm can boost your mind and well-being. Below, six more science-backed reasons to swap the remote for a novel.
1. Reading can chill you out.
Stressed out? Pick up a paperback. Research conducted in 2009 at the University of Sussex showed that reading was the most effective way to overcome stress, beating out old favorites such as listening to music, enjoying a cup of tea or coffee and even taking a walk, The Telegraph reported when the findings were released. Measured by evaluating heart rate and muscle tension, it took the study participants just six minutes to relax once they started turning pages.
“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,” study researcher Dr. David Lewis told The Telegraph.
2. It could help keep your brain sharp.
A lifetime of reading might just help keep your brain in shape when you reach old age, according to research published in the online issue of the journal Neurology. The study, which included 294 participants who died at an average age of 89, found that those who engaged in mentally stimulating activities, such as reading, earlier and later on in life experienced slower memory decline compared to those who didn’t. In particular, people who exercised their minds later in life had a 32 percent lower rate of mental decline compared to their peers with average mental activity. The rate of decline amongst those with infrequent mental activity, on the other hand, was 48 percent faster than the average group.
“Our study suggests that exercising your brain by taking part in activities such as these across a person’s lifetime, from childhood through old age, is important for brain health in old age,” study author Robert. S. Wilson of the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago said in a statement. “Based on this, we shouldn’t underestimate the effects of everyday activities, such as reading and writing, on our children, ourselves and our parents or grandparents.”
What Are The Benefits Of Reading?
We started WhytoRead.com to encourage you to read more and to introduce you to new books that will benefit you. The benefits of reading are not limited to 10 but the top reasons in this article are the most powerful. By the time you’ve read this post, you should be encouraged to pick up that book you’ve been meaning to finish so you can start the next one.
In terms of fiction or non-fiction, there are endless stories that can both broaden your understanding of the world or help you get through a sticking point in your life. Those who read have been known to have more finely-tuned brains than those who prefer more passive activities, so anyone hoping to improve their mind both psychologically and cognitively might want to think about taking up the habit of regular reading.
Here are 10 Reasons Why You Should Read More Books:
1. To Develop Your Verbal Abilities
Although it doesn’t always make you a better communicator, those who read tend to have a more varied range of words to express how they feel and to get their point across. This increases exponentially with the more volumes you consume, giving you a higher level of vocabulary to use in everyday life.
2. Improves Your Focus and Concentration
Unlike blog posts and news articles, sitting down with a book takes long periods of focus and concentration, which at first is hard to do. Being fully engaged in a book involves closing off the outside world and immersing yourself into the text, which over time will strengthen your attention span.
3. Readers Enjoy The Arts and Improve The World
A study done by the NEA explains that people who read for pleasure are many times more likely than those who do not to visit museums and attend concerts, and almost three times as likely to perform volunteer and charity work. Readers are active participants in the world around them, and that engagement is critical to individual and social well-being.
4. It Improves Your Imagination
You are only limited by what you can imagine, and the worlds described in books, as well as other peoples views and opinions, will help you expand your understanding of what is possible. By reading a written description of an event or a place, your mind is responsible for creating that image in your head, instead of having the image placed in front of you when you watch television.
When was the last time you read a book, or a substantial magazine article? Do your daily reading habits center around tweets, Facebook updates, or the directions on your instant oatmeal packet? If you’re one of countless people who don’t make a habit of reading regularly, you might be missing out: reading has a significant number of benefits, and just a few benefits of reading are listed below.
1. Mental Stimulation
Studies have shown that staying mentally stimulated can slow the progress of (or possibly even prevent) Alzheimer’s and Dementia, since keeping your brain active and engaged prevents it from losing power. Just like any other muscle in the body, the brain requires exercise to keep it strong and healthy, so the phrase “use it or lose it” is particularly apt when it comes to your mind. Doing puzzles and playing games such as chess have also been found to be helpful with cognitive stimulation.
2. Stress Reduction
No matter how much stress you have at work, in your personal relationships, or countless other issues faced in daily life, it all just slips away when you lose yourself in a great story. A well-written novel can transport you to other realms, while an engaging article will distract you and keep you in the present moment, letting tensions drain away and allowing you to relax.
Everything you read fills your head with new bits of information, and you never know when it might come in handy. The more knowledge you have, the better-equipped you are to tackle any challenge you’ll ever face.
Additionally, here’s a bit of food for thought: should you ever find yourself in dire circumstances, remember that although you might lose everything else—your job, your possessions, your money, even your health—knowledge can never be taken from you.