In the age of tweets, Facebook updates, and #Instagram, reading an entire novel or a substantial magazine article takes a backseat for many. But bookworms will vouch that reading can not only broaden your understanding of the world but it also helps you get through a sticking point in your life.
Those who read have sharper cognitive sense 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.
Reading has a significant number of benefits, and here are eight really smart reasons to pick up a book now.
It makes you smart
Dr. Seuss once wrote, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” A good book opens up a world of knowledge that you can’t find anywhere else. Apparently, children’s books expose kids to 50 percent more words than TV. Exposure to that new vocabulary not only leads to higher score on tests, but also higher scores on general tests of intelligence. Stronger early reading skills may mean higher intelligence later in life.
It boosts brain power
Not only does regular reading help make you smarter, but it can actually increase your brain power. Just like going for a walk exercises your cardiovascular system, reading regularly improves memory function by giving your brain a good work out. Reading is mental stimulation at its best. If you’re looking for a power read, opt for an actual book. Research suggests that reading on a screen can slow you down by as much as 20 to 30 percent.
It makes you more empathetic
You can’t experience everything yourself and reading is vicarious living at its best. A good read can help you understand the world better and make it easier for your to relate to others and know where they are coming from. According to research, reading literary fiction helps people understand what others are thinking by reading other people’s emotions. Readers are also better at picking up hidden nuances and reading facial expressions.
It improves 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. A good story will involve you in its time and place and keep you gripped and, over time, your attention span will improve.
It improves your memory
When you read a book, you have to remember an assortment of characters, their backgrounds, ambitions, history, and nuances, as well as the various sub-plots that weave their way through every story. That’s a fair bit to remember, but brains are marvelous things and can remember these things with relative ease. Amazingly enough, every new memory you create forges new synapses or brain pathway and strengthens existing ones, which assists in short-term memory recall as well as stabilizing moods.
It reduces stress
A study by consultancy firm Mindlab International at the University of Sussex showed that reading reduces stress. Subjects only needed to read, silently, for six minutes to slow down the heart rate and ease tension in the muscles. In fact, it got subjects to stress levels lower than before they started. No matter how much stress you have at work, in your personal relationships, it all just slips away when you lose yourself in a great story.
It can help you sleep
According to Mayo Clinic, creating a bedtime ritual, like reading before bed, signals your body that it’s time to wind down and go to sleep. Reading a real book helps you relax more than zoning out in front of a screen before bed. However, reading on screens like e-readers and tablets can actually keep you awake longer and even hurt your sleep.
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 and what is out there and beyond. 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. Reading thus opens up a world of possibilities through imagination.