The science-based benefits of reading

I absolutely love reading. Fiction, non-fiction, poems, blogs, newspapers, magazines. Unfortunately, in today’s world, we spend less time reading and more time browsing—scrolling through Tweets, liking Instagram posts.

It’s a shame, because reading offers many benefits that are backed by science. If you’re not convinced you should make it a habit, see below for some of the goodness reading can bring to your brain and to your life, as well as tips to build a better reading habit.

Benefits of reading

Why you should read everyday

The main benefit of reading is that it puts your brain to work. This is why it’s probably one of the healthiest hobbies for your mind. Reading is not only educational and informative—which is a great benefit in itself as learning something new is good in itself for your brain—it actually actively rewires the connections in your brain, which translates into many mental health and wellness benefits.

  1. Stress reduction: studies show that reading can help relax your body by lowering your heart rate and easing the tension in your muscles. Researchers found a reduction in stress of up to 68% in people when silently reading a literary work for only six minutes.
  2. Mental stimulation: research has found that reading can slow the progress of Alzheirmer’s disease and dementia by keeping your brain active and engaged, especially when reading out loud.
  3. Memory improvement: reading has been shown to slow the rate of memory deterioration and even improve your memory and thinking skills. I also wrote about ways to better remember what you read.
  4. Vocabulary expansion: reading is one of the best ways to learn new words. That’s why many researchers advocate for more reading experience in schools.
  5. Better focus: researchers have found that, compared to using social media, reading helps improve concentration by increasing the capacity for longer attention spans.
  6. Brain connectivity increase: studies have found that reading a narrative improves the connections inside the left temporal cortex of the brain—the area which is associated with language reception. The increased connectivity lasts for a few days after the reading session.
  7. Stronger analytical skills: when reading a novel, your brain takes notes of all of the details and gets into critical thinking mode to try to figure out what happens next. This skill can be used on a day-to-day basis, not only when reading.
Benefits of reading

How to cultivate a reading habit

“To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.”

W. Somerset Maugham, Playwright & Novelist.

So many distractions, so many series to watch, so many podcasts to listen to. Finding the time or the motivation to read can be hard. Here are some practical tips to make a habit of reading and to achieve your reading goals.

  • Pick a book you will enjoy. If business books are not your thing, forget about trying to read that business book everyone is talking about at work. When it comes to reading, anything goes. Are you a fan of science-fiction? Short poems? History? And yes, even comics count. Anything that captures your interest and your imagination will be better than a book you find boring.
  • Commit to reading one page every day. Lots of people tell you to try to read about ten pages a day. That’s bullshit and is very hard to stick to. Instead, commit to reading one single page. You cannot go to sleep if you haven’t read that one daily page. If you feel like reading more, that’s great, but your only pact with yourself is to read one page every single day.
  • Set a reading time and place. This could be just before going to sleep, while in your bed. Or on your way to work in the morning. Or on the way back from the gym. Having a set time and place helps to build a habit. Make sure you don’t have any distractions and lose yourself into the book.

Some people find it easier to read regularly if they invest into a Kindle or join a book club. Of course there are lots of other techniques to read more, but I found that these three one are the most effective ones. They’re incredibly simple and also realistic.

So next time you have a bit of free time, consider picking up a book instead of scrolling through your social media. Reading has so many benefit—your brain will thank you.

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