Book lovers have long held the notion that reading is good for you – ask any Book Geek and they’ll tell you reading is relaxing, fun, and educational, that they feel more empathetic and understanding as a result of the stories they’ve read, and that their horizons have been broadened, which is all great stuff, but now there’s scientific evidence to prove that reading actually IS a superpower 😉
1. Reading Improves Your Memory
Not only is it proven that reading improves your memory, but researchers also believe that chapter books in particular encourage “deep reading”.
Unlike reading magazines and newspapers, reading a book (of any genre) forces your brain to think critically and make connections from one chapter to the next, as well as make connections to your real-life and the outside world. When you make these connections, so does your brain, literally forging new pathways. Over time, these networks promote quicker thinking, and may provide a greater defence against the effects of cognitive decline.
Of course, magazines, newspapers and online articles still have merit – reading anything that exposes you to new words, facts, and ideas will always have brain benefits, and new research indicates that a large vocabulary may lead to a more resilient mind by fuelling what scientists call “cognitive reserve”, which can help your brain cells find new mental pathways around areas that are damaged by conditions such as stroke, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.
2. Reading Reduces Your Stress Levels
When you settle down with a good book, do you ever feel your stress melt away? Turns out there’s a scientific reason behind it. According to researchers at Mindlab International at the University of Sussex, reading for just six minutes can help reduce stress levels by up to 68%.
According to Dr. Lewis, the person behind the study, “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.”
3. Reading Can Be Therapeutic
There is evidence to support the idea that certain books can help you work through issues that you are having in a your own life, this is known as bibliotherapy. Re-reading is even more beneficial – according to consumer behaviour researcher Cristel Russell, re-reading is especially good because the practice of re-reading a book (or re-watching a movie or TV show) results in individuals trying to find new meaning in them.
4. Reading Makes You Smarter
Recent findings suggest that children as young as six months old who read books with their parents several times per week show stronger literacy skills at age four, score higher on intelligence tests, and land better jobs as adults than non-readers. And it’s specifically books that have this impact – not magazines or newspapers.
5. Reading Increases Your Attention Span
We live in a digital age with amazing things like the Internet, Netflix, and various forms of social media. However, all of these put demands on our attention, and with so many distractions, we have shorter attention spans than we used to.
According to neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield, reading can help improve your attention span. Stories have a beginning, middle, and an end, and reading helps your brain process details in sequence, which in turn helps you think more clearly and holds your attention for longer.
6. Reading Can Help You Live Longer
In 2016, researchers at the Yale School of Public Health sifted through 12 years worth of data from the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study (HRS), which tracks data regarding the health of over 3,600 men and women over the age of 50, and they made an interesting discovery – people who read books for as little as 30 minutes per day lived an average of 2 years longer than those who didn’t read at all.
Researchers in the UK have also found that reading in a book club can help you live longer, especially for people of retirement age. A book club helps you keep your social connections and makes you engage when you would otherwise be at risk of withdrawing, providing you with a good support system and an overall better quality of life.
7. Reading Can Make You More Empathetic
A study in 2013 found that participants who read a chapter story showed a noticeable increase in empathy one week later, while news readers showed a decrease. Reading books, especially fiction, has been shown to increase empathy and emotional intelligence, while reading the news has the opposite effect – it actually desensitises us and makes us less empathetic.
Developing social skills such as empathy and emotional intelligence can lead to more positive human interaction, which in turn can lower stress levels – both of which are proven to help you live longer and healthier.
8. Reading Before Bed Can Help You Sleep
According to the Mayo Clinic, creating a bedtime routine, like reading before bed, signals to your body that it’s time to wind down and go to sleep. Reading a book also helps you relax more than zoning out in front of a screen – e-readers and tablets can actually keep you awake longer. Another reason to keep reading physical books!
Do you believe reading is your superpower? Do any of these reasons why reading is amazing ring true for you? Talk to me in the comments!