Does anything beat getting into a good book? Reading is an absolutely wonderful form of self-care; it’s relaxing, rewarding, and low-cost. If you love reading, you’ll be happy to know that besides being enjoyable, it’s great for your health! Whether you’re reading fiction, non-fiction, or poetry, you reap a number of benefits when you read a good book! Here are 5 benefits of reading (backed by science!)—all reasons to curl up with a good book, stat.
- Reading slows cognitive decline. Cognitive activities such as reading have been demonstrated to slow signs of cognitive decline and dementia independently of neuropathology (physical brain damage). In other words, if two people have the same physical damage to the brain but one of them has been a regular reader her entire life and one of them hasn’t, the person who reads more regularly will likely outwardly show fewer signs of cognitive decline. This study correlates cognitive activity such as reading and learning a second language with lower rates of cognitive decline.
- Reading improves empathy. Stories offer us a unique window into the minds of other humans. This study established a connection between the regular consumption of literary fiction and an enhanced ability to understand others’ desires and beliefs (this is called Theory of Mind).
- Reading helps you live longer. This study found that regular book readers had a 20 percent reduction in risk of mortality compared to non-book readers. Although researchers do not know the exact mechanism for this reduced mortality rate, they controlled for self-rated health, wealth, marital status, age, race, education, sex, and depression in an effort to isolate the effects of reading from other contributing factors. Interestingly, the strongest effect on lifespan was found with study participants who read books as opposed to magazines and newspapers.
- Reading improves intelligence. A longitudinal study of 1,890 identical twins indicates that early reading may positively affect intelligence. Children who performed best on early reading tests also tended to produce high scores on intelligence tests given every 2-4 years.
- Reading reduces stress. I probably don’t need to convince you of the stress-relief benefits of reading. I personally read to help me wind down before bed and I know that a good book will always make me feel better after a hectic day. Evidence shows that reading can reduce stress levels by 68 percent, and that only six minutes of reading is needed to slow down heart rate and release muscle tension.
Are you convinced yet? Reading is not only enjoyable, it’s amazing for our physical, mental, and spiritual health. That being said, I know that many people struggle to find the time to read; I still struggle with this myself. Here are a few simple ways to incorporate reading into your daily routine when you’re short on time:
- Read a few pages when you get up in the morning. Rather than scrolling through your phone first thing, start the day off on a relaxed foot and read a few pages right when you wake up. You can even read while you’re still in bed to gradually wake yourself up.
- Read before bed. I love reading before bed; it calms me down and helps my brain get into bedtime mode! Even if you only read a few pages, reading before bed is a great way to take a little time for yourself and celebrate the end of another day.
- Read when you eat. I also love to read books during meals. Many people enjoy practicing mindful eating with no distractions while they eat; if that’s your jam, go for it! I personally find that reading while eating still allows me to relax and be present with my food. If you normally scroll on your phone or laptop while you eat, try replacing your devices with a good book instead.
- Read on your commute. If you take public transportation to work or school, this is another great time to get some reading in. Start to actually look forward to your commute by settling down with a book!
- Map out downtime to read. It’s great to work reading into your everyday routine, but it’s also awesome to set aside longer periods of time to really relax into a book. My entire family loves reading on vacation; other options are to set aside an hour or two in the evening to read or plan a weekend day. Maybe go to your favorite café for a few hours and settle into a new book!
Happy reading, dumplings! What’s your favorite book?
Photo: Maille O’Donnell