5 of the Top Benefits of Reading and How to Read More

It’s no coincidence that many of the world’s brightest, most accomplished, and successful people are voracious readers.

When considering the benefits of reading, it’s clear that reading boosts intelligence, comprehension, imagination, critical thinking, empathy, vocabulary, and more.

Reading books does the double duty of enriching an individual with knowledge and/or engrossing stories, while also stimulating the brain in unique ways. It’s more neurobiologically demanding than simply processing images or speech. When you read and work to understand a concept or start to picture a character or story, different parts of your brain – such as vision, language, and associative learning – begin working together.

We use both hemispheres of the brain when we read. Also, reading activates the corpus callosum (the tissue that connects the two hemispheres) which allows for a better exchange of information (connectivity) between the hemispheres.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of reading, and how to read more.

5 of the Top Benefits of Reading + Reading Tips

1. Improves Brain Power and Structure

Benefits of Reading 2Reading increases your brain power and can even improve your brain structure. The mental stimulation it provides stokes the development of new neurons, which boosts brain functioning in numerous ways.

One of the top benefits of reading is that it enhances your imagination. We use our imaginative powers to create images of the people, places, and actions described in books. This practice strengthens the mind as it acts like a muscle.

This makes it easier for your mind to imagine things in real life as well. Imagination encourages creativity and innovative thinking.

Reading has been shown to boost intelligence. In an ongoing longitudinal study involving nearly 2,000 sets of twins, the twin with stronger early reading skills showed higher intellectual aptitude later.

Also related to intelligence, reading critically (as one does with literature) appears to boost mental flexibility. Mental flexibility is the ability of a person to shift a course of thought or action according to the changing demands of a situation.

Students who read for pleasure have been shown to do better in multiple subjects, including English, Math, Science, and History. That’s because reading helps students to think critically and improves reading comprehension skills.

It’s no surprise that reading is also good for your memory and may protect against neurodegenerative brain health issues. Research indicates that more frequent cognitive activity (such as reading) across the lifespan is associated with slower late-life cognitive decline.

Reading can literally change the structure of your brain, making it stronger. One study showed that poor readers can be trained to become better readers, and their brains get stronger as a result. A six-month program of daily reading revealed that the volume of white matter in the language area of the brain of poor readers increased.

2. Increases Empathy

Reading literary fiction, especially stories that go deep and explore the inner lives of their characters, helps one to develop the ability to empathize with others. Also called the “theory of mind,” it’s an important process in social cognition.

Officially, it refers to one’s capacity to understand that other people hold beliefs and desires and that these might differ from one’s own beliefs and desires. Long-term readers of literary fiction (in comparison to nonfiction or popular fiction) showed better-developed theory of mind in tests.

3. Reduces Stress

Reading can be immensely relaxing. A research study on stress management techniques for students found that reading for 30 minutes decreased acute stress.

Additionally, a University of Sussex study found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68%, and worked better and faster than other relaxation methods, such as listening to music or drinking a cup of tea. Stress reduction is also beneficial to heart health, and it may account for why reading tends to make people feel good and can help boost mood.

4. Helps You Fall Asleep

Reading and bedside tables go together for a reason. A 2019 study involving nearly 1,000 people had roughly half the group read before bed for 7 days, and the control group go to bed without reading. Those who read before bed were up to 22% more likely to report better sleep than the control group.

The Sleep Foundation suggests winding down at least 30 minutes before bed with something such as quiet reading (from a book, not a digital device), stating it helps you “get into the right frame of mind for sleep.”

5. Builds Your Vocabulary

Research involving adults shows that extensive reading is an excellent way to expand one’s vocabulary. Students who read for pleasure tend to be better readers, better writers, and have more grammatical competence. This can have real-world payoffs.

One recent poll found that soft skills are among the most important skills wanted by employers. Among the top soft skills are communication skills, which are honed by a strong vocabulary.

It’s Never Too Late

No matter your age or reading level, it’s never too late to enjoy reading. Here are a few tips for how to make reading a healthy habit:

  • Make time to read every day. Whether it’s 5 minutes or a half hour, build a regular time/place to read into your day.
  • Take your book with you wherever you go. It will encourage reading whenever you have extra time.
  • Read books you really enjoy. You’ve got to love it to make it a habit.
  • Join a book club. There’s nothing more motivating than having a regular time to discuss books with others.

So, pick up a book and start boosting your brain power today!

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Kim Henderson
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