Despite your best intentions, reading can sometimes seem tedious and hard, especially in the modern world of immediate gratification. However, reading is a good thing and it is something that everyone should do. Here are 6 reasons that reading is healthy, and the scientific proof to back it up.
Reading Books Makes You a Better Person
Not everyone is empathetic to every situation, but empathy is something that we could all try and develop a little more of. In 2013, Emory University did a study that shows that people who read fiction are more empathetic. The brains of people who read and people who don’t read were compared and the brains of people who do read showed more activity in certain areas than the people who don’t read. In the central sulcus of the brain, the primary sensory region which helps the brain visualize movement, more activity could be seen. This area is linked to reading because when you visualize yourself performing an action (exactly what happens when you read books) you can actually feel yourself or imagine yourself acting what is happening in the book. You envision yourself as a character in a book: You can take on the emotions they are feeling.
The study showed that people who take on the emotions of characters in a book are more likely to be empathetic, as this is what they are constantly doing when they are reading.
Reading Improves Social Skills
So reading makes you more empathetic… what else can it do? Apparently it improves your social skills all too! A study that was published in the journal Science found that after reading books, specifically literary fiction, people performed better on tests measuring their ability to relate to others. The subjects who read books all saw an increase in the social skills that come in handy when you are trying to read someone’s body language or gauge what they might be thinking.
The study stated that “Understanding others’ mental states is a crucial skill that enables the complex social relationships that characterize human societies. Yet little research has investigated what fosters this skill, which is known as Theory of Mind (ToM), in adults. We present five experiments showing that reading literary fiction led to better performance on tests of affective ToM.”
Reading is Great for Your Relationship
Ken Page, an expert on emotional health also stated that “Research shows that people can grow closer by revealing and sharing new thoughts, ideas and fantasies with each other, [and] reading a book and then discussing it is a fun and entertaining way for couples to grow closer.”
Even Ella Berthoud, a bibliotherapist at the School of Life in Bloomsbury, London said, “One of the joys [of reading together] is that you discover new aspects of each other, or you may rediscover a connection you had.”
Hmmmm, sounds good. Reading can help us grow closer to our significant others as well.
Reading prevents Alzheimer’s
Nobody wants to lose their mind, it is one of the only things that we have for ourselves and it is in this that our identity can be found. A 2001 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, questioned 193 people about their participation in 26 different hobbies. Physical activities like gardening and knitting, intellectual hobbies like reading, and passive ones such as television viewing were all tested. They found that elderly people who regularly read or play mentally challenging games are 2.5 times less likely to have the debilitating illness, which affects 4 million Americans.
The study’s main author, Dr. Robert Freidland, claims people who don’t regularly exercise their brain stand a chance of losing brain power. Reading helps to keep our mind sharp and active.
Reading is Relaxing
Dr. David Lewis from the research group Mindlab International at the University of Sussex found that after test subject’s stress levels and heart rate were increased through a range of tests and exercises; they 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.
Reading reducing stress levels by 68%. Listening to music only reduced stress levels by 61%, having a cup of tea of coffee lowered them 54%, and taking a walk lowered stress levels by 42%.
Dr Lewis said: “Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation. 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.
Reading Sharpens your Brain
This study in Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, author Robert S. Wilson, PhD says: “Our study suggests that exercising your brain by taking part in activities such as these across a person’s lifetime, from childhood through old age, is important for brain health in old age.
For the study, 294 people were given tests that measured memory and thinking every year for about six years before their deaths at an average age of 89. After they died, their brains were examined at autopsy for evidence of the physical signs of dementia, such as lesions, brain plaques and tangles.
The research found that people who participated in mentally stimulating activities, like reading, both early and late in life had a slower rate of decline in memory compared to those who did not participate in such activities across their lifetime. Mental activity accounted for nearly 15% of the difference in decline beyond what is explained by plaques and tangles in the brain.
“Based on this, we shouldn’t underestimate the effects of everyday activities, such as reading and writing, on our children, ourselves and our parents or grandparents,” said Wilson.
Regardless of whether or not you truly enjoy reading, it is undoubtable worth your time, and there is indeed scientific evidence to back this up.
h/t: I Heart Intelligence