How Reading can accelerate your wellbeing – 12 compelling reasons why you should read regularly
You may underestimate the benefits available to you when you open a book and glance at the words on it. Going on to read those pages will enrich and change your life in ways that you could never imagine.
Reading books benefits your physical, mental and spiritual health and those benefits can last a lifetime. They begin in early childhood and continue through the senior years. Hence, it is never too late to begin taking advantage of the many benefits waiting for you in the pages of a good book.
Here are 12 compelling reasons for reading that can change your brain, body, mind and soul for the better
1- Improves Memory and Focus
In our internet-connected world, our attention is drawn to multiple outlets all at once, e.g watching news on TV, checking email, children needing attention, work deadlines and so on. This type of behaviour causes stress levels to rise and weakens our ability to focus.
When you read a book, all of your attention is focused on the story; the rest of the world just falls away, and you can immerse yourself in every fine detail you are absorbing. You have to remember an assortment of characters, their backgrounds, ambitions, history, and nuances, as well as the various arcs and sub-plots that weave their way through every story.
That’s a fair bit to remember, but brains are marvellous things and can remember these things with relative ease. Reading involves a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain. As your reading ability matures, those networks get stronger and more sophisticated.
Every new memory you create forges new synapses (brain pathways) and strengthens existing ones, which assists in short-term memory recall as well as stabilizing moods.
A growing body of research indicates that reading literally changes your mind which is amazing.
2- Improves Mental Health
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.
In addition, the relaxation that accompanies reading a good book, it’s possible that the subject you read about can bring about immense inner peace and tranquility.
Reading books on spiritual topics can lower blood pressure and bring about an immense sense of calm while reading self-help books has been shown to help people suffering from certain mood disorders and mild mental illnesses.
3-Deepens Empathy and Improves Relationships
People who read literary fiction — stories that explore the inner lives of characters — show a heightened ability to understand the feelings and beliefs of others.
Researchers call this ability the “theory of mind,” a set of skills essential for building, navigating, and maintaining social relationships.
While a single session of reading literary fiction isn’t likely to spark this feeling, long-term fiction readers do tend to have a better-developed theory of mind and empathic ability.
In 2009, a group of researchers measured the effects of yoga, humour, and reading on the stress levels of students in demanding health science programs in the United States.
The study found that 30 minutes of reading lowered blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of psychological distress just as effectively as yoga and humour did.
The authors concluded, “Since time constraints are one of the most frequently cited reasons for high stress levels reported by health science students, 30 minutes of one of these techniques can be easily incorporated into their schedule without diverting a large amount of time from their studies.”
Similarly, in your life, 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
5- Prepares You for a Good Night’s Rest
Doctors at the Mayo Clinic suggest reading as part of a regular sleep routine.
For best results, you may want to choose a print book rather than reading on a screen, since the light emitted by your device could keep you awake and lead to other unwanted health outcomes.
Libraries have books on every subject imaginable, and since they rotate their stock and constantly get new books, you’ll never run out of reading materials.
If you happen to live in an area that doesn’t have a local library, or if you’re mobility-impaired and can’t get to one easily, most libraries have their books available in PDF or ePub format so you can read them on your e-reader, iPad, or your computer screen.
There are also many sources online where you can download free e-books, so go hunting for something new to read!
There’s a reading genre for every literate person on the planet, and whether your tastes lie in classical literature, poetry, fashion magazines, biographies, religious texts, young adult books, self-help guides, street lit, or romance novels, there’s something out there to capture your curiosity and imagination.
Step away from your computer for a little while, open a book, and replenish your soul for a little while.
7- Helps Prevent Age-related Cognitive Decline
The National Institute on Aging recommends reading books and magazines as a way of keeping your mind engaged as you grow older.
And the earlier you start, the better. A 2013 study conducted by Rush University Medical Center found that people who’ve engaged in mentally stimulating activities all their lives were less likely to develop the plaques, lesions, and tau-protein tangles found in the brains of people that impact cognitive function.
8-Alleviates Depression Symptoms
People with depression often feel isolated and estranged from everyone else. And that’s a feeling books can sometimes lessen.
Reading fiction can allow you to temporarily escape your own world and become swept up in the imagined experiences of the characters. And nonfiction self-help books can teach you strategies that may help you manage symptoms.
That’s why the United Kingdom’s National Health Service has begun Reading Well, a Books on Prescription program, where medical experts prescribe self-help books curated by medical experts specifically for certain conditions such as depression and anxiety.
9-Builds Your Vocabulary
A 2019 poll conducted by Cengage showed that 69 percent of employers are looking to hire people with “soft” skills, like the ability to communicate effectively. Reading books is the best way to increase your exposure to new words and knowledge.
The more you read, the more words you gain exposure to, and they’ll inevitably make their way into your everyday vocabulary.
Being articulate and well-spoken is of great help in any profession and knowing that you can speak to significant people with self-confidence can be an enormous boost to your self-esteem. It could even aid in your career, as those who are well-read, well-spoken, and knowledgeable on a variety of topics tend to get promotions more quickly (and more often) than those with smaller vocabularies and lack of awareness of literature, scientific breakthroughs, and global events.
Reading books is also vital for learning new languages, as non-native speakers gain exposure to words used in context, which will ameliorate their own speaking and writing fluency.
10-Better Writing Skills
Writing is an essential life skill. On a basic level, we write emails, social media posts and messages daily where authentic communication is vital.
At the advanced level, exposure to published, well-written work has a noted effect on one’s own writing, as observing the fluidity and writing styles of other writers will invariably influence what you write.
11-Strengthens Analytical Thinking Skills
Have you ever read an amazing mystery novel, and solved the mystery yourself before finishing the book? If so, you were able to put critical and analytical thinking to work by taking note of all the details provided and sorting them out to determine “whodunnit”.
That same ability to analyse details also comes in handy when it comes to critiquing the plot; determining whether it was a well-written piece, if the characters were properly developed, if the storyline ran smoothly, etc.
Should you ever have an opportunity to discuss the book with others, you’ll be able to state your opinions clearly, as you’ve taken the time to really consider all the aspects involved.
12-Develops General Knowledge
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.
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.
What should you be reading?
So, what should you be reading? The short answer is: Whatever you can get your hands on.
There was a time when remote regions had to rely on librarians traversing the mountains with books stuffed in saddlebags. But that’s hardly the case today. Just about everyone can access vast libraries contained in mobile phones and tablets.
If you’re pressed for time, devote a few minutes daily to a blog on your area of interest. If you’re looking for an escape, fantasy or historical fiction can transport you out of your own surroundings and into another world altogether.
If you’re on a career fast-track, read nonfiction advice offered by someone who’s already arrived. Consider it a mentorship you can pick up and put down when it suits your schedule.
However, remember to not depend on reading on a screen. Flip through print books, too.
Studies have shown repeatedly that people who read print books score higher on comprehension tests and remember more of what they read than people who read the same material in a digital form.
Bypass the binge-watching from time to time
Binge-watching TV probably needs to be an occasional treat rather than your main source of intellectual stimulation. Research shows that prolonged TV viewing, especially for children, may change the brain in unhealthy ways.
In summary, reading is an excellent use of your time because research shows that regular reading:
- improves brain connectivity
- increases your vocabulary and comprehension
- empowers you to empathize with other people
- aids in sleep readiness
- reduces stress
- lowers blood pressure and heart rate
- fights depression symptoms
- prevents cognitive decline as you age
Therefore, pick up that book that has been lying on your shelf, gathering dust for a few years, settle down, get comfortable, open it, start reading and begin your journey to a more enriched life.
About Hansa Pankhania
Hansa Pankhania is a published author of 10 Wellbeing books for adults and children available on Amazon or through her website. In her books, she is passionate about sharing natural wellbeing techniques which do not cost anything but nourish your body, mind, and soul in powerful ways.
She is a Speaker and Founder of AUM WELLBEING CONSULTANCY which offers personal and corporate wellbeing solutions.
In her books, STRESS TO SUCCESS IN 28 DAYS and STRESS TO SUCCESS STORIES, she is passionate about sharing natural wellbeing techniques which are cost free, easy-to-implement but nourish your body, mind, and soul in powerful ways.
Her CHAKRAJI CHILDRENS RELAXATION SERIES OF BOOKS passes natural wellbeing tips to primary age children using colourful illustrations.
She has also published her memoir BEST OF THREE WORLDS about being born in Kenya as a British subject of Indian origin and the fusion of three histories and cultures. She is currently writing a sequel, BEST OF ONE WORLD – my 50 steps to a sustainable, meaningful and joyful life, which will be published in October 2023.
Contact us at +44(0)7888747438