Reading: what are the benefits?

The Benefits of Reading

Despite living in an age where we can spend hours surfing social media and binge watching TV box sets, reading still remains a popular pastime. Whilst many of us read for pleasure, there are actually many hidden mental and physical benefits beyond the enjoyment of reading. These benefits can last a lifetime - beginning in childhood and continuing through to senior years. Here are some ways in which reading can change your brain and body for the better:

Strengthens the Brain

Through the use of MRI scans, researchers have discovered that reading involves a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain. As your reading ability matures, these networks become stronger and more refined. In fact, reading for extended periods of time has been shown to increase brain connectivity, especially in the somatosensory cortex - the area that deals with responses to physical sensations such as movement and pain.

Reduces Stress

Time constraints are one of the most frequently given reasons for high levels of stress. Reading for just 30 minutes a day can lower heart rate, blood pressure and feelings of psychological distress. Simply taking the time out to read each day can make it easier to complete laborious tasks, significantly reducing daily stressors.

Empathy Towards Others

Research has shown that people who read fiction (in particular stories that explore the inner workings of characters) show an enhanced ability to understand feelings and beliefs held by others. Reading has also been demonstrated to increase our emotional intelligence as we understand a range of perspectives and motivations. Researchers refer to this ability as the ‘theory of mind’ - a set of skills essential for building, navigating, and maintaining social relationships. Long-term fiction readers tend to have a better-developed theory of mind.

A Good Night's Sleep

Instead of browsing through your phone or tablet at night, you may want to choose a print book since the light emitted by your device could keep you awake and lead to other unwanted health outcomes. Technology can trick your brain into thinking that it needs to stay awake - you remain alert, making it difficult to relax. Fortunately, reading helps to put your consciousness on another plane and therefore induces sleep. Reading before bed can reduce tension, stress and improve cognitive function. Delving into a good book before falling asleep also helps to perfect your night routine. 

 It is never too late to take advantage of the many mental and physical benefits you can find within the pages of a good book. The simple act of reading can do us all a world of good!