A large percentage of the population is missing out on the significant benefits of reading. According to Statistic Brain, about a third of U.S. high school graduates will never read another book after graduating and 42 percent of college students will never read another book after obtaining their degree.
Reading can improve your life in several ways leading to better well-being and mental health, personal growth, and a boost in confidence. These benefits will carry over to your school work, career and social life.
If you haven’t read a book in years or think reading is for nerds, perhaps you should reconsider. The following are just a few of the benefits associated with reading and the reasons why you should read more.
Reading expands your vocabulary
The more you read, the more words you’ll be exposed to. Consistent exposure to new words, learning their meanings and seeing the context in which they’re used will increase your mental dictionary. You will have more words available to use and more ways to use them in conversation and in writing. This will improve your ability to communicate effectively, allowing you to better articulate your thoughts and more accurately express how you feel. Most writers would attest that reading makes them better at writing.
Reading stimulates your brain
Your brain needs to be kept active and engaged in order to stay healthy. Reading is great exercise for the mind. From a neurobiological standpoint, reading is more demanding on the brain than processing speech and images. Mental stimulation from reading will improve your memory and learning capacity, keep your mind sharp by slowing cognitive decline as you age, and strengthen your brain against disease like Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Reading improves your memory
Reading creates new memories. With each of these new memories, your brain forms new connections between neurons called synapses and strengthens existing ones. As you read you are memorizing and recalling words, ideas, names, relationships, and plots. You’re essentially training your brain to retain new information.
Reading makes you smarter
Reading makes you smarter, it’s that simple. In the paper What Reading Does for the Mind by Anne E. Cunningham and Keith E. Stanovich, reading was found to compensate for average cognitive ability by building vocabulary and expanding general knowledge. Development of intelligence is not dependent on cognitive ability alone, it’s only one variable.
Reading increases knowledge
Reading is one of the primary ways to acquire knowledge. The knowledge you gain is cumulative and grows exponentially. When you have a strong knowledge base, it’s easier to learn new things and solve new problems. Reading a wide range of books will help expand your general knowledge. Specific knowledge can be acquired by taking a deep-dive on a subject or topic. Filling your mind with new facts, new information, and new ideas will make you a better conversationalist as you’ll always have something interesting to talk about.
Reading strengthens focus and concentration
In order to comprehend and absorb what you’re reading, you need to focus 100% of your attention on the words on the page. When you’re fully immersed in a book, you’ll be able to tune out external distractions and concentrate on the material in front of you. A consistent reading habit will strengthen your attention span which will carry over to other aspects of your life.
Reading enhances analytical thinking skills
You can develop your analytical thinking skills over time by consistently reading more books. Reading stimulates your brain, allowing you to think in new ways. Being actively engaged in what you’re reading allows you to ask questions, view different perspectives, identify patterns and make connections. Compared to other forms of communication, reading allows you more time to think by pausing to comprehend, reflect and make note of new thoughts and ideas.
Reading relieves stress
A 2009 study has shown that reading is more effective at reducing stress than listening to music, going for a walk, having a cup of coffee or tea, or playing video games. Reading for only six minutes is enough to slow your heart rate, ease tension in your muscles and lower stress hormones like cortisol. “Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation” according to Dr. David Lewis, who conducted the study.
Reading improves your imagination
Reading a good novel can transport you to another place, another time or another world. You can escape reality and temporarily forget about what’s bothering you. Exercising your imagination will improve your ability to visualize these new worlds, characters and perspectives. Opening your mind to new ideas and new possibilities makes you more creative and more empathetic.
Reading helps you sleep better
The addition of reading to your bedtime ritual will reduce stress and train your brain to associate reading with sleep. This will make it easier to fall asleep and allow you to enter into a deeper sleep. TV, smartphone and tablet screens emit blue light which disrupts your internal clock and negatively impacts the quantity and quality of your sleep. Avoid reading on a screen at least an hour before bed and read a physical book instead.
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