Times have changed, and so have our attention spans. Roughly a quarter of U.S. adults (27%) say they haven’t read a book in whole or in part in the past year, whether in print, electronic or audio form, according to a Pew Research Center survey. With so many benefits of reading, a large majority of the population is missing out.
It’s become second nature to read news and media in the shortest form possible via social media. To once again pick up something substantial like a novel, newspaper, or long-form article may seem daunting. However, there are major benefits of the daily reading of books and other long-form works.
Let’s look at nine incredible benefits of reading, many backed by scientific studies.
Improve Your Health
Research suggests that people who keep their brains active by reading – proven mental stimulation – are 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who spend their downtime on less stimulating activities.
Studies have shown that staying mentally alert can slow the progress and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Reduce Overall Stress
Snuggling up with a good book can transport you to the magic of other worlds away from immediate worries, reducing stress.
A 2009 study by the University of Sussex found that reading for just six minutes can reduce stress levels by up to 68%. Reading is found to decrease blood pressure, lower heart rate, and reduce stress to significant degrees.
“And read… read all the time… read as a matter of principle, as a matter of self-respect. Read as a nourishing staple of life.”David McCullough Jr.
Expand Your Knowledge
To read is to know. And to know is to grow a curiosity for more knowledge. Your reading material needn’t always be serious subject matter for you to grow your knowledge.
You’ll never meet a well-read individual who wasn’t an interesting person to converse with. Through reading, you cultivate thoughts and gather interesting tidbits of information, ready for use at opportune times.
The more knowledge you have, the better equipped you are to handle many of life’s challenges.
“You will learn most things by looking, but reading gives understanding. Reading will make you free.”Paul Rand
Gain Higher Levels of Empathy
You’ve most likely heard the phrase “the human experience.” Every human’s experience is unique to them, and reading truly shares a greater worldview of the human experience.
Books open the world up for us; to take us out of our own environment and show us the realities of others out there. Some books have the power to change your mind and outlook completely.
Expand Your Vocabulary & Improve Your Writing
The more you read, the more words you encounter. As vocabulary improves, you will ultimately gather more tools in your toolbox, perfect for expressing emotion and putting a voice to your thoughts.
The ability to articulate your thoughts and exercise your imagination will impress others and pave the way to better relationships, promotions, leadership roles, and public office.
This goes hand-in-hand with improved vocabulary. People who read a lot, especially well-written material, absorb numerous writing styles and are able to emulate a good writing style because they are subconsciously influenced by it.
Improve Your Memory
Plots are complex, most of the good ones, at least. In order to follow a plot, you need to remember quite a bit, which can become a workout for your brain. Remembering a range of characters, their backgrounds, actions, roles in the plot, as well as the various sub-plots, exercises your memory and cognitive muscles.
You won’t highly comprehend what you’ve read if you don’t remember certain details. Reading keeps the brain’s memorization capacity in practice.
Improves Focus & Concentration
Reading a substantial, lengthy writing work strengthens your focus. In order to follow the plot – or sequence of ideas – you will need to develop your ability to focus. This can be done by slowly increasing the length of text or the reading level.
Numerous theories regarding the common practice of multitasking look out how long-term multitasking can ultimately disrupt our cognitive control. “Multitasking reduces performance by causing interference, distraction, and ultimately errors (Courage, Bakhtiar, Fitzpatrick, Kenny, & Brandeau, 2015).”
Reading requires focus, something that often is sorely lacking in our society. Making time to read 15-20 minutes every day can improve your ability to focus and help you be more productive.
Better Your Sleep Quality
Most avid readers can attest to this. There is nothing quite like falling asleep with a book in your hands – if your story doesn’t engross you into pulling an all-nighter, of course. Reading is similar to a sleeping pill; it is relaxing and sleep-inducing, especially if you have been under stress.
Reading doesn’t only help you to fall asleep, it also improves your overall sleep quality. Since it is relaxing, reading can help you achieve a night of deep and restful sleep.
Achieve Inner Tranquillity
Now we know this may seem cheesy, but it’s true for most. In addition to reducing your overall stress levels, it’s possible that the subject you’re reading about brings you an immense amount of inner peace and tranquillity.
For example, reading spiritual or meditative texts has been demonstrated to lower blood pressure. Similarly, self-help and self-improvement books can assist people in specific mental health issues.
Whatever inner state you’re seeking to gain, there’s likely a book that will help get you there.
“Reading… a vacation for the mind… ”Dave Barry