Between work, school, and family obligations, having time to snuggle up with a good book might seem like an unrealistic fairytale to many of us. Throw in the hundreds of distractions we receive from our smartphones each day, and the idea seems even more unattainable.
Yet research shows us that there are a number of benefits to reading that can improve our health as well as our personal lives.
Benefits of Reading
Even if you haven’t picked up a book since you were assigned Lord of the Flies in the 10th grade, have no fear! With so many different genres to choose from, you’re sure to find something that pertains to your interests.
1. Expand Your Vocabulary
Want to impress the hiring manager at your big interview next week? Or how about your date for next Friday?
Expanding your vocabulary won’t just make you seem smarter—you’ll actually be smarter.
Besides conversation, one of the ways you probably learned so many new words in your early childhood was by reading or being read to.
If you tried to estimate how many words you know right now, the number is likely unfathomable. But no matter the number, there are still thousands to discover (and that’s assuming you speak just one language.)
One sure way to bulk up your vocab? Reading regularly.
When reading, I often come across words that I’m already familiar with, but might not use regularly. Without even making a conscious effort, I find myself using some of those words in conversation later in the week.
Reading is a simple and fun way to expand your knowledge and vocabulary, which can help you do better at work and in your daily life.
2. Have Better Conversations
What’s worse than talking to someone who doesn’t know anything?
Talking to someone who thinks they know everything.
The truth is, no matter how intelligent we may consider ourselves, there’s always more to learn.
It was Plato who said, “I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.”
Reading books will certainly make you a better-informed person and help you to realize just how much you don’t know (and will ensure that you stop relying on Facebook as your main source of information).
As a result, you’ll see the quality of your conversations with others improve. You’d be surprised how often the most random bits of knowledge prove useful!
Plus, we all know that small talk is the worst. With regular reading, you can be confident that next time you’re trying to fill an awkward silence, you’ll be armed with a few topics other than the weather.
3. Strengthen Your Memory
Reading can also serve as a great exercise for your memory.
This is because every time you read a story or an article, your mind is creating a new memory, which serves as a sort of cognitive workout.
Research has found that individuals who engage regularly in mentally stimulating activities (such as reading books) demonstrate a slower rate of decline in memory with respect to those who did not read regularly.
The same study also linked reading to a lower likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia later in life.
It goes without saying that we all stand to benefit from a stronger memory. It makes us more productive, and our lives become easier in general when we can easily recall information.
Luckily, taking action to strengthen your memory is as easy as picking up a book. (Especially our book on optimizing your memory!)
4. Improve Your Focus
Reading (of any kind) can improve your ability to focus.
Thanks to the advent of social media and high-speed internet, the average person’s attention span is getting shorter and shorter. We want instant gratification and aren’t happy to wait much for anything.
This is why it can seem difficult to stick with reading if it isn’t already a habit for you.
With fiction, you have to commit to the storyline and follow the plot while keeping up with multiple characters. With non-fiction, if your brain doesn’t stay engaged for more than a few minutes, it can be difficult to maintain interest in the subject.
However, if you can commit to reading a bit every day, you’ll find that staying focused becomes easier with time. Start by committing to a few pages, or a chapter, or whatever you feel comfortable with based on your availability.
By learning to stay more focused, you’ll also see improvements in your work performance as well as your personal relationships!
5. Sleep Better
If your days are especially hectic and you just can’t picture yourself finding the time to read, try reading for a few minutes just before bed.
Chances are, you’re already reading something before drifting off—just not the right thing.
So many of us love unwinding after a whirlwind day by checking up on social media. In fact, a 2017 study by ReportLinker revealed that 53% of us like to do our last check right before bed.
It makes sense—it’s a mindless activity that probably feels like a fun break for your brain.
However, scrolling through Twitter or Instagram right before bed can actually have a damaging effect on your ability to sleep soundly.
Checking social media, especially first thing in the morning and right before sleeping, has been linked to increased cases of loneliness, anxiety, and depression.
One great solution? Put the phone down and reach for a book instead. Whether you’re slipping into a riveting story or some fascinating nonfiction, you’ll be able to take your mind off of the day’s troubles and ease into a more restful sleep.
6. Learn To Think Critically
By becoming better-informed, you’ll also learn to think more critically.
Obtaining knowledge through reading doesn’t mean downloading someone else’s thoughts or opinions. Instead, you will be armed with the knowledge to make more informed judgments for yourself and think critically about issues that are important.
You’ll be able to form educated opinions and make informed responses to statements you might not agree with. In addition, you’ll learn new ways to address complicated issues.
Reading mystery novels, for example, might help you to view a complicated challenge with a new, fresh perspective. This ability to think dynamically will help you find solutions to problems that you might not otherwise have considered.
7. Become More Empathetic
Regardless of whether you’re reading fiction or non-fiction, reading will make you a more empathetic person.
Most works of literature address universal struggles, even if subtly. When you place yourself in a character’s shoes, you’ll be able to gain a new perspective and perhaps even change some of your previously held convictions.
Reading about life on the other side of the world, or in another era, or from the point of view of someone of a different race will give you a better understanding of the struggles we all face.
At the same time, you might gain understanding of issues that you never really thought about simply because you don’t encounter them in your everyday life.
This sense of enlightenment will help you better understand the human condition and question where there is room for improvement in our world.
8. Find an Escape
Reading takes you into a world of infinite possibilities, where you can travel to new places and meet the most fascinating of people—all without leaving your living room.
At the very least, it can take your mind off of your daily problems by serving as a stimulating distraction. If you allow yourself to get lost, you can jump into a completely new life, if only for a few hours.
This is why reading can aid in fighting depression and anxiety, exactly the opposite of what checking your social media feed can do for you.
It’s hard to think of a better escape, and all it costs is a share of your time.
9. Become A Better Writer!
And finally, what better way to improve your writing than by absorbing a little of all the greatness that came before you?
One of the only sure ways to improve your writing (other than practicing every day) is to read as often as possible.
The more variety you can throw into your reading list, the more you will benefit, too.
Having trouble finding a book that strikes your fancy?
Toni Morrison once advised, “If there is a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
Start Reading Today
If you’re able to invest the time, you’ll certainly profit from the amazing benefits that come with reading. You just have to get started!
How has reading improved your life? Share your experiences below!