We already know that reading can make you smarter, but the activity has plenty of other benefits we can happily embrace. Researchers found that reading was the best way to overcome stress and it can even help prevent certain forms of dementia. For an easy way we can make good on that promise to take care of our mind, body, and soul, we don’t need to look any further than our bookshelf.
1. IT CALMS US DOWN
When we’re feeling anxious and overwhelmed, the best cure to calm our nerves is in a book. A 2009 study at the University of Sussex showed that reading was the best way to overcome stress, even over activities such as going on a walk or listening to music. Researchers measured participant’s heart rate and muscle tension and saw it took six minutes for readers to ease tensions once they began reading. The best news? It doesn’t matter what kind of book we read, as long as we’re engrossed in the content.
2. IT MAY PREVENT DISEASES
Research by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2001 found those who read more often are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Dr. Robert P. Friedland told USA Today that “The brain is an organ just like every other organ in the body. It ages in regard to how it is used. Just as physical activity strengthens the heart, muscles and bones, intellectual activity strengthens the brain against disease.”
3. BOOKS HELP US TAP INTO OUR IMAGINATION
Immersing ourselves in another world helps us tap into our imagination, which then impacts our day-to-day creativity. Reading opens us up to new possibilities and ideas, which stick with us long after we’re finished turning the pages. Flipping through a book that transports us to another world turns us into better problem solvers, communicators, and critical thinkers.
4. FICTION INCREASES OUR EMPATHY
Journal PLOS ONE discovered that reading fiction could increase our empathy towards others. After studying readers who read engaging stories, researchers found they had an increase in empathetic skills. Investing in a character or storyline makes us more understanding and aware of other’s lives and challenges, helping us see past our own assumptions or stereotypes.
5. WE SLEEP BETTER
Reading signals to the mind that it’s time to slow down and get some rest. Unlike using our phone or watching TV, there are no bright screens that stimulate our brains. Reading for 15-20 minutes before bed is a great way to relax and prepare for a great night’s sleep.
6. WE’RE SMARTER AFTER READING
Reading increases our linguistic skills. The more we read, the more vocabulary we’re exposed to. This helps us become more articulate whether we’re speaking face to face with others or writing our thoughts down on a page. The more facts, situations, vocabulary, and perspectives we come across, the smarter we become.
7. IT’S POSITIVE ENTERTAINMENT
Although social media or watching TV has its perks, it’s easy to get caught up in what others are doing or see only what’s provided on the surface. Reading gives us that much needed quiet time to focus on ourselves, experience deeper emotions, and get lost in a story. Besides, learning something new is entertaining and good for the soul.