We have all heard that reading can be beneficial. However, it is not really clear in what ways reading exactly benefits us. Does it reduce stress? Does it help our brains to develop? Does it help us to improve sleep…
Read on and learn what science and my research say about the benefits of reading.
1. Improves brain function
Research suggests reading strengthens our brains. MRI scans reveal that reading activates our brain, resulting in stronger and more complex neural networks.
Furthermore, a 2013 study revealed that reading a novel increased activity in various areas of the brain, including the somatosensory cortex, which receives tactile information from the body such as touch. The increased brain activity also lasted for several days after reading.
2. Helps to keep your mind sharp as you grow older
Furthermore, a 2013 study revealed that individuals who engage in mentally stimulating activities (such as reading) throughout their lives had a lower risk of developing dementia-related plaques, lesions, and tangles. And another 2005 study provides evidence that reading out loud can help combat Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
So reading every day will not only strengthen your brain but will also make it more likely that your brain remains sharp as you age. And if you want to begin reading every day you should check out our ultimate guide on building a reading habit.
3. You learn new things
While reading is great for our brain development, the main benefit of reading is that it is a powerful tool that can help us learn and acquire new knowledge.
“The way to get better results in life is to learn constantly.Farnam Street
And the best way to learn is to read effectively, and read a lot.”
In fact, if you want to learn something new, often it is almost impossible to do so without reading since books often contain knowledge that cannot be found anywhere else.
” whenever anybody asks Elon how he learned to build rockets, he says, ‘I read books.’ “From an article on Elon Musk by Esquire
Furthermore, it is a lot cheaper to access the book than to go to the university or hire an expert to teach you. In fact, you can attain an Oxford university education for free just by reading.
Of course, I do not entirely agree with Farnam Street (see the quote above) that reading is always the best way to learn. Rather it is a valuable learning tool, that combined with other learning methods (e.g. quizzing yourself, listening to an expert, practicing) can help you to learn anything you want effectively.
Lastly, it goes without saying, that you learn different things from different books. Some books might be more suited for learning, while others might be more suited for entertainment. And even if you pick the right book, you have to read it properly to truly learn from it.
4. Improves memory
Reading has been found to slow memory decline and enhance overall memory and cognitive abilities. This makes sense since whenever you read, you have to store and remember the information that you are consuming.
This process of consuming and storing information creates memories and new synapses and reinforces existing ones. The end result is improved memory.
5. Lowers stress
Another great benefit of reading is that it was shown to reduce our stress. A 2009 study has indicated that half an hour of reading can lower our blood pressure, heart rate, and psychological distress.
“Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation.”Dr David Lewis
Furthermore, a study by the University of Sussex researchers found that reading for six minutes or less can decrease stress by 68%.
6. Boosts empathy
A 2013 study, indicated that reading fiction literature (where characters’ feelings are described) can temporarily boost our empathy. Furthermore, another paper has revealed, that if you consistently read fiction for extended periods of time and become a long-term fiction reader, then you are likely to be more empathetic than others.
7. Improves communication skills
As discussed above, reading expands our vocablurary and empathy, which in turn boosts our communication skills. After all if you want to be a good at communicating with others, you need to understand your audience and have the words, with which to express yourself.
8. Is a source of entertainment
Another great reason to read is that it is just really entertaining, especially the fiction books. You can experience different worlds, different stories, different characters… Everyone who has read at least 20 or 30 books will generally have encountered a book that is so interesting that they could not put it down.
“Keep reading. It’s one of the most marvelous adventures that anyone can have.”Lloyd Alexander
9. Enriches vocabulary
A 2011 study has indicated that reading books consistently from an early age can lead to an enriched vocabulary. This can in turn can positively affect various areas of a student’s life, including test scores, college admissions, and job prospects.
Another similar study in 2015, has confirmed that vocabulary growth is positively affected by reading. And as we grow the differences in vocabulary between readers and non-readers accumulate. Thus, it is advisable to begin reading more if you want a richer vocabulary!
10. Reduces depression symptoms
When you read fiction it is not only enterntaining, but it also provides a temprory escape from the real world issues. Furthermore, non-ficion books can provide the guidence and motivation to combat various issues that you may encounter in your life
As a result, UK National Health Service, has begun an initiative called Reading Well, which provides book recommendations that can help aleviate mental health issuses.
11. Improves sleep
A recent 2021 study showed that reading a book in bed before sleep increased sleep quality. Of course, you should try to read relaxing books and try not to read for too long (e.g. more than 1 hour our). The goal here, as indicated by Mayo Clinic staff, is to relax before going to bed.
Also, you might want to consider reading outside your bed so as to associate bed with sleep only. However, I personally tend to read in bed as I enjoy it more and, as disscussed, in another article making reading enjoyable can help to build a reading habit.
12. Could boost your overall intelligence
Reading has been shown to lead to higher test scores on general childern intelligence tests. Also, another study has revealed that strong early reading skills predict higher intelligence later in life.
Of course, there are multiple ways how one can define intelligence and the studies above used a very narrow definition of intelligence. The main benefit of reading is that as disscussed is that you learn new things – and I believe that the more learned man you are the more intelligent you are in the eyes of others.
Futhremore, as mentioned, reading non-fiction can make you more emphathetic, which means it could boost your emotional intelligence. Thus, reading both non-ficion and fiction makes you better and smarter person.
13. Might increase your lifespan
A 2017 study titled “The survival advantage of reading books”, has showed that those who read books lived approximately 2 years longer than those who did not read or read other forms of media like magazines. Also, the study has revelaed that those who read about 4 hours weekly are about 20% more likelly to live longer than those who do not read at all.
In summary, reading is amazing! If you are not reader yet, you should grab a book right now. And I would recommend to check out my article on how to build a reading habit.