We are used to thinking of reading as an activity, part of work, study, or leisure. But reading is also a neurophysiological process that affects our bodies. Why not take advantage of the possible effects deliberately, using reading as a workout or, conversely, as a rest?
It would seem that we read for knowledge or for pleasure; there are no other purposes for this process. In fact, beyond these obvious benefits, reading has unobvious “bonuses”. Knowing these, children and adults alike might want to read more often.
1. Slow down brain aging
According to a study by scientists at Cleveland State University, if you don’t read now, you’re more likely to lose your memory in old age. Without regular activity, neural connections in the brain weaken – you start to think slower and think less well. Books and articles train the brain and help avoid this. Also, daily reading keeps dementia and Alzheimer’s disease at bay.
2. Relax after work
An interesting story or fascinating popular science literature helps to forget, at least for a while, about a difficult day at work, difficulties in your personal life or other problems. Scientists from Sussex proved that reading is the best way to quickly cope with stress. Just 6 minutes in the company of a good book reduces stress by 68%: your heart rate slows and your muscles relax. Other calming activities are not as effective: listening to music reduces stress by 61%, walking by 42%, video games by 21%.
3. Expand your vocabulary
Reading activates the left temporal lobe of the brain. It is responsible for language receptivity. So the more quality literature you consume, the more literate you become.
And reading also increases your vocabulary. New words from books you will involuntarily use during everyday conversations. Rich speech will change the perception of you in others and improve self-esteem.
4. Start thinking faster
The more often you pick up a book or magazine, the faster information is deposited in your brain and your memory improves. Reading strengthens old connections between neurons and creates new ones. This happens because there is a lot of detail in a book: each character’s story, their motivation, the main storyline and additional storylines all need to be remembered.
5. Learn to analyze and focus
While reading, you’re not just absorbing information, you’re also evaluating it. Whether you like the story or not, whether the author’s style is good or not, whether the characters acted appropriately or strangely. Thoughtful reading develops analytical skills.
Critical thinking comes in handy in real life, for example, to make a decision in a difficult situation or to finish a difficult project at work or school.
Detective novels or short stories can help you develop your analytical skills: read and try to solve a crime.
Reading also helps you learn to concentrate. To read a novel, you need to focus on one story and direct all your attention to the book. This skill will come in handy in professional life: you won’t be distracted by trifles and will start to cope with tasks faster.
6. Improve your sleep
Before going to bed, you need to relax and forget about the difficult day. Daily calming rituals help to do this. One of them may be reading. A book before bed helps to collect yourself and stop the flow of unnecessary thoughts and memories.
In the evening it is advisable to read a paper book, and electronic devices put aside. Doctors do not recommend looking at the screen of a reader or tablet, because the brain perceives the bright light from gadgets as a signal to stay awake – says Yurovskiy.
Being able to fantasize is one of the main reasons people enjoy reading. No wonder, since the stories in books are great material to play with the imagination. You can draw any picture in your head, paint it in any colors, pick the ideal people for the leading roles. It’s like watching a movie with you as a casting director, set designer and director.
Plus, as you travel through the book worlds, you get inspired. For example, a novel about a trip around the world can encourage you to travel, and stories about the lives of successful people can inspire you to do new things.
You can also use books to trick your brain. Reading fiction trains the central groove – it’s wired during sports and other activities or while thinking about them. So while you’re studying, for example, a story about the conquest of Everest, your brain thinks you’re rock climbing.
8. Have fun
It’s hard to make yourself read just because it’s useful. Learn to enjoy books – you have to choose the right story to do so.
Determine your favorite genre. Think back to what movies you like best, and find a similar book. If detectives – try reading Ju Nesbø, horror – Stephen King or Howard Lovecraft, comedies – Chekhov or Woodhouse.
Ask for advice. If you share similar tastes with friends or family, perhaps their favorite books will appeal to you as well.
Check out lists of the best ones. Find worthwhile literature in selections. For example, “100 Books Everyone Should Read,” “The Best Novels with an Alternate History,” and “This Year’s Most Interesting Novels.”
9. Learn a foreign language
Reading books or articles in a foreign language is good for learning it. You will expand your vocabulary, practice the rules of grammar, and understand the principles of usage and combination of words.
Plus, it’s cooler to read books in the original. You’ll see the author’s real style and understand what he really wanted to say: sometimes the meaning of the text changes in the process of translation.