We all know a nutritious diet keeps the body healthy and sound. But what about the mind? Just like exercise, meditation, and a good night’s sleep, reading is one habit that keeps your mind healthy. It is like food for your mind—the more you read, the sharper and healthier your mind gets. So, what exactly are the benefits of reading? It relieves stress, boosts creativity, and makes you more empathetic, to name a few. What’s more, the habit of reading can also add years to your life. Researchers at Yale University tracked thousands of adults aged over 50 for 12 years and found that those who read books for 30 minutes a day lived nearly two years longer than those who read magazines or newspapers.
The benefits of reading are endless. Let’s take a look at 10 reasons why you should read every day.
When you read, you visually process the words and play out the entire scene in your head. Such an activity not only increases brain function, but also improves connectivity between different areas of the brain. Ken Pugh, PhD, President and Director of Research at Haskins Laboratories, says, “Parts of the brain that have evolved for other functions—such as vision, language, and associative learning—connect in a specific neural circuit for reading, which is very challenging.” In a 2013 study published by the Brain Connectivity journal, it was found that college students who read showed heightened activity in the brain areas related to language, memory, and motor abilities.
All this brain activity sharpens your memory and expands your learning abilities while keeping your brain robust.
It is true that technology keeps you well informed, but its constant consumption can severely affect your attention span and focus. In a span of five minutes, your mind tends to shoot off in different directions. But when you read, your focus remains sharp, while your brain attempts to decipher the words and make sense of them. You rewire your brain to maintain focus and put all other thoughts aside. This not only stimulates the brain but also improves your attention span and focus.
Life can get stressful, but there are several ways to relieve stress. Reading is one such scientifically proven method. Research conducted at the University of Sussex shows that only six minutes of reading can reduce stress levels by 68 percent, in comparison to other activities like 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,” adds Dr David Lewis, the cognitive neurologist who conducted the study.
Makes you a better person
Believe it or not, reading can turn you into a better person. As author Malorie Blackman says, “Reading is an exercise in empathy; an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while.” Research conducted at the University of Toronto reveals reading fiction has a positive influence on your personality, broadening your perspectives, and heightening empathy. The researchers also concluded that fiction readers not only put themselves in others’ shoes with ease but also read the emotion of the other people without much difficulty. “It’s not that empathic people read more, but that reading promotes empathy”, the study states.
Books also help you understand yourself and the people around you better. Another study at the New School for Social Research in New York proves reading literary fiction improves emotional intelligence, a skill imperative to navigate through social relationships.
Reading is the best way to increase your exposure to new words. Even experts have confirmed the positive correlation between reading and vocabulary. It strengthens your language and enhances your everyday vocabulary. Reading also improves your communication skills and builds confidence, fostering personal and professional growth.