“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R Martin, A Dance with Dragons
If you have found comfort in the corners of your public library or have your nose buried in a new book every week, chances are you are already reaping many of the great benefits that reading can have on your brain. However, for many of us, reading is something of an afterthought. It’s hard to carve out time in our already jam-packed days to sit down and do something with seemingly no gain – personal or financial. Books can be a form of entertainment but just like eating right and exercise it can have an impact on your mental health, stress levels and memory over time.
Reading can reduce stress levels by 68%.
“This is more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.” Said cognitive neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis.
Reading can grow your brain in more ways than one. Reading lets you learn new things, grow your vocabulary, and improve on emotional intelligence.
Reading helps enhance the memory muscles in your brain, it makes us concentrate more and focus on the narrative at hand. It creates links between parts of the brain that aren’t directly involved with reading such as; vision, language and associative learning.
“A sentence is shorthand for a lot of information that must be inferred by the brain.” says Maryanne Wolf, director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University “We are forced to construct, to produce narrative, to imagine.”
You are more Empathetic
As readers you have a better ability to understand complex feelings and are more perceptive to others’ emotions. This was studied at the University of Buffalo, they found that the stories we read and the characters we relate with can help us understand different ways of life.
“If I read genetics or astronomy, I get more expert at genetics or astronomy. In fiction, also, we are able to understand characters’ actions from their interior point of view, by entering into their situations and minds, rather than the more exterior view of them that we usually have.” Keith Oatley, a professor in the department of human development and applied psychology at the University of Toronto
Reduce the risk of Dementia and Alzheimers
Activities that stimulate the brain, like reading, have been proven to prevent mental decline and conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s. A study showed that people who read later in life have a 32% lower rate of declining mental abilities.
Reading can put our brains into a state of deep relaxation, similar to meditation. It’s been shown that people who tend to read more frequently experience better sleep, lower stress levels, higher self-esteem and lower rates of depression than those who do not read.
So the next time you’re feeling anxious or that you need an escape from the day-to-day stresses in your life, take that as a moment to dust off the old novel and on your bedside table and give it a read.