by Alejandra "Alex" Ruani — Get free science updates here.
Let’s start with the bottom line: The more you read, the healthier you become.
Think about it like this – reading gives muscle to your memory. While the brain isn’t actually a muscle, it can still benefit from a good workout.
Furthermore, it’s surprising just how reading can make you healthier. With that in mind, in this article I want to explore five ways that reading can do just that.
1. Reading calls your intelligence to action
Rather than watching a video or listening to an audio track, notice how much you must concentrate whilst reading.
“Reading gives you a unique pause button for comprehension and insight”, says Maryanne Wolf, director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University.
Reading essentially forces us to concentrate and imagine where otherwise we are just absorbing the information in pictures or sounds coming at us. It’s simply good for your brain.
Having that ability to pause, reflect, absorb, imagine and process sharpens intelligence by challenging the entire neural circuit from reading.
Nutritionally, we can even consider the idea that books are like vitamins for the brain.
Here’s a nice list of 10 easy to read books I discovered as a great opening for the inquisitive mind and sharpening your intelligence about, well, the universe!
Or simply immerse yourself in one of our online courses packed with amazing reading materials that can make you healthier in many other ways too.
2. Reading reduces stress
Now this gets even more exciting!
Think about when you read – you are able to tune out the world and tune into the words in front of you. Your mind, or brain, is actively engaging in something that requires your full attention.
The result? You are not thinking about outside stressors when your nose is in a book. In other words, it distracts you. According to a University of Sussex study, a simple six minutes a day has shown to reduce stress by a huge 68%.
But how does it really reduce stress?
Here’s where it gets impressive. It’s that distraction – having your mind concentrate on reading – that eases the tensions in your muscles and heart/circulatory system.
People who experience emotional stress – rushing around all the time with a clenched jaw, perhaps experiencing frustration and anger more often than not – are more prone to developing heart disease.
All that chronic emotional stress deposits loads of adrenaline unnecessarily into the bloodstream. Over time, this dumping weakens the very vital system that is our lifeline to basic nutrient distribution.
“Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation, especially in these times of uncertainty when we are all craving some escapism”, says cognitive neurobiologist, Dr. David Lewis.
Reading also lowers muscle tension, because of this healthy diversion of actively engaging your imagination out of your physical body (and woes) to the world of words in that book.
3. Reading can help prevent brain ageing and Alzheimer’s disease
Yes, an intellectual hobby like reading may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and memory problems.
This research found that elderly people who regularly undertake intellectual activities such as reading are 2.5 times less likely to get this debilitating disease, which affects over 850,000 in the UK.
Challenging the brain to learn new things through reading can help your informational processing stay in better shape. It’s thought that it might even reshape brain circuitry by helping the brain continue to be more adaptable with regard to mental functions as one ages.
4. Reading fiction boosts your social skills
That simulation of social experience involved in a good novel might engage the same social cognitive processes in the ‘real world’. What a great way to hone in on improving your relationship with others in social situations.
Scientists investigating introversion, proved this very hypothesis in an experimental study. It’s remarkable how that exposure to fiction might be able to stimulate our empathic ability through direct immersion into a character in a book. Sort of like being able to relate to someone better in the real world because you can liken a circumstance or scene or even a character to one you’ve previously engaged in a novel you read.
Furthermore, if your social skills get a lift, you know what else increases? Self-confidence for personal growth and empathy for others.
5. Immersing yourself in deep reading gives you the best results
If you’re a regular reader of our Science Reports (click HERE if you aren’t yet), you’ll notice that we take your mind through a journey of discovery and fascination inside each PDF download for you. There’s a good reason for that: it deepens your reading experience.
All of the above ways reading makes you healthier refer to what’s called deep reading.
That’s the immersion into a book or reading material, which stimulates the intellect, reduces stress, helps reshape brain circuitry, and boosts social skills.
Deep reading calls for you to engage at a deeper level than say surfing the net for information.
Decoding words on a site or gathering tidbits of knowledge rather quickly, as you do when surfing the internet, will not produce the same experience as deep reading, especially when reading literature or a comprehensive article like this one.
The sensory immersion that unfolds in deep reading is a great robust activity for the brain.
How about you?
What can you share with our community of your experience of reading? Do you gravitate towards literature or non-fiction, or do you prefer the good old surf of the net?
Tell us in the comments below!