Reading transports us to worlds we would never see, introduces us to people we would never meet, and instills emotions we might never otherwise feel. It's a captivating activity that many of us have given up over the last decade, in exchange for our TVs, telephones and social media, despite knowing it creates joy and provides us with an array of health benefits.
As a society, we all should be reading more. It helps us stay less stressed, gives us better world knowledge, and helps us grow as people. It's time we start putting away the phones, and instead embrace that gleeful feeling of picking up a new, unread book for the first.
Here are just a few reasons you should be reading more books.
Reading is fun.
While there are countless mental and physical benefits of reading books, one of the main reasons you should want to do so is simply because it's enjoyable. We can take ourselves a way to far off fantasy lands, or immerse ourselves in the lives of our favorite historical characters. If you find reading to be a chore, consider trying out new genres or authors. There is a book out there for everyone.
Reading helps you build 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. In addition, it is scientifically proven that reading does make you smarter. A study by Stanford in 2012 reported that reading is truly an "exercise of people's brains". Reading a novel, for example, increases the blood flow and improves connectivity in the brain.
Reading improves your conversational skills.
Because reading increases your vocabulary and your knowledge of how to correctly use new words, reading helps you clearly articulate what you want to say. The knowledge you gain from reading also gives you lots to talk about with others. You will find that talking to people who also read frequently is more enjoyable. Conversations tend to be deeper and more meaningful.
Reading 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. The more you read, the lower your overall stress levels will be from day-to-day. It affects your mind in two ways. A well-written novel can transport you to other realms and help you forget about the stress you have, while an engaging article will distract you and keep you in the present moment, letting tensions drain away and allowing you to relax.
Reading boosts your problem solving skills.
Have you ever solved a case in a mystery book before you read the conclusion or predicted a turn of events in a novel? Your analytical and critical thinking was stimulated because of reading. Reading helps you detect patterns, solve problems, and assimilate new information as if you were living in the characters’ shoes.
Reading can help you grow as a person.
It's not often that we can identify moments when our personality changes and evolves, but reading fiction may help us do just that. A study by the University of Toronto helped show this, by asking readers about their views on their own personality before and after reading fiction and non-fiction texts. Keith Oatley, psychologist and one of the study's authors, said, "As you identify with another person, a protagonist in the story, you enter into a piece of life that you wouldn't otherwise have known. You have emotions or circumstances that you wouldn't have otherwise understood."
Reading improves our concentration.
In our current tech-loving world, our attention is being pulled in thousands of directions every day. We are constantly multi-tasking rather than living in the moment. When we read a book, however, all of our attention gets focused completely on the story. We are forced to focus on each word, rather than skim a web page or social media post. By doing this, your brain forms deep connections to the plot and book, all while practicing concentration. When we read each day for 15-20 minutes before work, we will be more focused on individual task as a whole throughout the day at the office.
Reading makes us more worldly.
When you read a book with a concurring worldview, it reinforces your convictions. If you read a book with an opposing worldview, it broadens your perspective and causes you to examine your beliefs and search for truth. Reading helps you to learn about other cultures, beliefs, and values.
Furthermore, a study done by the NEA explains that people who read for pleasure are more times more likely to visit museums and attend concerts. And almost three times as likely to perform volunteer and charity work. Readers are active participants in the world around them.
Reading makes you a better writer.
You might not be an editor of a large magazine, but you probably write more than you realize (even if it is just lengthy updates on Facebook). When you read, your brain absorbs good writing techniques and vocabulary without even realizing it. In your own writing, you will then unconsciously copy the writing styles of books that held your attention.
Reading does not have to be some chore we dread doing. Rather, it should be an experience we want to embrace for its mental and physical health benefits. There are books out there for everyone, so no matter if you are into fantasy land dragons or in-depth essays on past public figures; there is something out there worth your time. You will find that it’s fun and enjoyable, too.