It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a person in possession of a book, must be a damned fine human being.
Any bookworm knows that reading is one of the very best ways to spend a day (or week, or month), but did you know that a regular reading is scientifically proven to make you a better, healthier person?
Let’s look at the facts:
It only takes six minutes of reading to reduce stress levels by up to 68%, according to a study carried out at the University of Sussex. Reading beat listening to music, having a cup of tea and taking a walk to be confirmed the most relaxing activity.
Experts believe that it is the focus required to fully immerse yourself in reading that makes it so relaxing, forcing you to forget your troubles and focus instead on the lives of your favourite characters.
To achieve truly a zen-like state of relaxation, you could try reading whilst taking a stroll with your iPod on, Thermos of tea at the ready for a couple of hours a day but frankly, that all sounds like too much hard work.
Your brain, like any other muscle in your body, benefits from a good work out. When you read, you use a whole bunch of different parts of your brain in order to fully process the information presented to you – including those given over to vision, language and associative learning – making reading the burpees of the mental world.
The repetitive processing of memories from short-term to long-term that allows you to remember where Harry Potter got his scar or why Rishi threw coffee over a stranger, strengthens your brain’s ability to continue this process into old age. Thus keeping your memory sharp and reducing the likelihood of illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia later in life.
How often have you felt lost in a good book? You’re not alone. According to research carried out by Carnegie Mellon University, your brain’s reaction to fiction is to process the emotions of the characters as if they are actually happening to you so that you can properly understand them. The more you read, the easier this is.
This ability to understand the feelings, motivations and perspectives of others carries through into a reader’s everyday life, making the readers in the office the most likely to instinctively know when you need a good old rant about the boss’ delegation methods.
You are introduced to all walks of life through the pages of a book, and positive portrayal of any individual, group, or culture in literature has been proven to influence the opinions of the reader.
A 2014 study carried out by psychologists at the University of Modena found that children who read are more likely to be accepting of others, regardless of characteristics such as race, sexuality and gender.
Small caveat to this: reading will only open your mind if it includes people or circumstances that are different from your own. Obviously.
Research carried out by Quick Reads in 2015 found that, despite being a solitary activity, reading actually helps you feel less isolated. 1 in 4 participants said that they felt reassured when reading about a character in a similar situation to them.
This feeling of inclusion makes readers more self-assured and satisfied with their lives. There’s nothing like reading a bit of Anne Frank to help put your terrible commute into perspective, is there?
Ever tried multi-tasking when reading? It’s pretty much impossible. This is because the complex activity that the brain carries out requires focus and attention, abilities that a surprisingly high number of people seem to lack in today’s fast-paced world.
The practice that a reader gets at these key skills translates into an ability to focus for longer and more fully when people are talking, making for exceptional listeners. And given that 45% of communication is listening, you’re off to a good start.
Add to that the fact that reading increases vocabulary and you’re also set for the 30% of communication that talking constitutes.
Here’s the best thing about readers though:
Their stress-free, open-minded outlook, and capacity for empathy together with their superior vocabulary makes for the best writers.
And so the cycle continues…