If you have recently found that your idea of reading is logging in to your Facebook account and scrolling through your feed, then you may need a reminder about what health benefits reading an actual book has to offer. From textbooks to the New York Times bestsellers, reading gives your brain a workout. Learning to read physically changes your brain’s form and functions. Reading helps your brain process information “visually and verbally more effectively” and improves communication skills. One study found that reading “rewires” areas of the brain responsible for both vision and verbal communication. Here are just a few examples of how books are good for your brain:
1. Less Stress
Getting caught up in a good book can help you de-stress. A survey found that reading beat out music and walking for reducing stress levels. In just a short period of time, reading can slow your heart rate and relieve muscle tension. According to psychologists, this is likely caused by the amount of concentration it takes for the human mind to read and actually get lost in a book.
2. Improve Social Skills
Although you are escaping the real world when reading a book, studies have shown that reading can actually improve your social skills and how you deal with people. Generating “theory of mind” allows a person “the ability to understand others’ mental states, beliefs, desires, and differing thoughts.” This is a necessary quality to have in social relationships; and often times books can boost one’s level of empathy, another essential skill for forming friendships.
3. Expand your Vocabulary
You don’t have to sit for hours reading the dictionary to learn new words. Books will help your brain start to recognize new words as you read. You are guaranteed to come across at least one word in each work you read that is foreign to you. Context clues will normally help you decipher the meaning, but it’s always good to look up a new word as you come across it, and insert it into your everyday speech. Did you know? A larger vocabulary often means a higher income: “the average American reads a book a year. The CEO of a company averages around 60 books a year.”
4. Improve your Memory
As you read, various parts of your brain – vision, language, etc. – work together and demand more neurobiologically than speech or processing images. It’s been suggested that reading each day can have a positive impact as you age – slowing the inevitable cognitive decline. Reading is also known to decrease the brain protein involved in Alzheimer’s and improve overall mental flexibility. From increased vocabulary to lessening chances of disease, books are good for the brain!
5. Get More Sleep
A great way to tell your body it’s time for bed is by reading each night. Making that your nightly ritual will signal your body that it is time to shut down for the night and you will feel more relaxed. Because screen time can keep you awake longer, make sure you are reading a real book instead of using your tablet or another form of e-reader. Plus, reading on a screen has been proven to slow you down and can keep you from absorbing much of what you read.
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