I previously wrote a blog post about the reasons to why I read. These were purely personal reasons for me. The basics of the post was, that I just enjoy reading, it’s that simple 🙂 There is no other thing to it for me really. But reading is not just entertainment or something to do because you enjoy it. There are real benefits to gain from reading (and here, again, it is reading fiction).
- Stimulation: One benefit of reading is keeping your brain active and engaged, this prevents the brain from loosing its power and it can help slow the progress of degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimers and dementia. Keeping the brain stimulated and active also improves memory. When you read, you have to remember characters, places in the story, the plot and so on. This really helps improve the short-term memory. Other activities and hobbies like solving puzzles, playing games like chess or crossword puzzles can also improve mental health and stimulate the brain, and can contribute to slowing Alzheimers and dementia and also improve memory.
- Relaxing: Reading helps you relax, slow your heart rate, and being relaxed have real benefits. Reading is actually the best way to relax, and therefore also the best way to reduce stress. Reading works better and faster to relax and reduce stress than listening to music, going for a walk. Reading being the best way to relax also means that reading helps you sleep better. Having a de-stressing or calming routine before going to bed that involves reading helps you to calm your mind and tell your body that it is time to sleep. A good nights sleep provides a strong foundation for dealing with stress but having stress really messes with your sleeping. Many people who suffer from stress have trouble shutting off their mind and ones of the things that can help disengage your brain and rest. Obviously you should not read a highly exciting page-turner before bed that makes you want to stay up all night reading. Other things that can help you sleep is to have a set routine that you do every night, like you probably had as a child. If you are having trouble turning off you mind, you can also write the things to think about down before going to bed and dealing with them tomorrow.
- Vocabulary: The more you read, the more words and phrases you are exposed to, the greater your vocabulary will become. Eventually these new words and phrases will move into your everyday vocabulary and you will become a more articulate and well-spoken person. This can help to increase self-esteem and confidence because you will be able to express yourself better. Having a large vocabulary will also help to make you a better writer and it will give your writing more variety and interest, as you are not using the same words and phrases over and over. Reading is also very helpful even it comes to learning a new language because you will be exposed to words, phrases, metaphors, and how words come in a certain order and context of this new language. A good place to start is with children’s books as the sentences are very simple and easy to understand. That is what I did when I started learning English and German.
- Concentration: A not so surprising benefit of reading is that it helps you to focus and can increase your ability to concentrate. When you read you have to stay focused on the story so you don’t lose the plot and this helps you in other situations e.g at work or when studying. This benefit is not surprising to me, as I can tell that my focus and concentration have improved. In this online, multi-tasking world many people find it hard to focus and concentrate on one thing at a time for a longer period. I too was easily distracted by a ping of a text or e-mail, but now I find it easier to ignore these distractions and just keep working on what ever I’m doing and not check my phone or e-mail until I’m done. This is also related to stress. When we try to multitask and monitor texts, e-mails, Facebook, chat or Skype and talk to people we get easily overwhelmed and this causes the stress-levels to rise. And that is why being able to stay focused and concentrate on one task at a time is very beneficial for our overall well-being.
- Development: This category contains a few different areas of development that reading contributes to. The first is the development of critical thinking and analytical skills. Have you every read a murder mystery and figured out who done it before it was revealed in the story? Then you are able to think in a critical way and analyse the information given in the story to find the killer. This ability to analyse details in the story, the characteristics of the people in the book and so on helps when you e.g have to explain a book or talk about it with others. And these analytical and critical skills can also be used in your personal and/or work life and can help in analysing situations, texts and speeches. Another thing that reading helps to develop is imagination and creativity – not only when it comes to language and writing, but also in other aspects like painting and drawing. A development area that was surprising to me was empathy. But I think we have all gotten emotional or even cried over a character dying in a book or something bad happening to someone in a story, or you smile or laugh even something good happens in the story. Even this happens when you read, it develops your ability to feel empathy. So becoming emotional over a fictional character is actually a good thing 🙂 Who knew.