4 Ways Reading Can Change Your Life, Seriously
We’ve been taught the importance of reading since we were children. Aside from increasing your vocabulary, facilitating learning, and helping you understand the written documents of day-to-day life, reading does so much more for us than just academic success. Reading helps reduce stress, boosts mood, hinders cognitive decline, improves our ability to empathize, and can even make us live longer. This summer pick up a book, any genre, and help your mind and body.
In life, there are a series of factors both internal and external that can cause us stress. And likewise, a series of methods exist to reduce stress. Some people head out for a jog, some write in a journal, and others meditate. But if neither of those things is quite your speed, try reading. Studies have shown that just 30 minutes of reading can lower blood pressure, feelings of depression or distress, and heart rate. Some readers find that transporting their mind into an alternate world with the literary characters in the stories they read, helps them escape from the worries present in the real world.
Like crosswords, word searches, and sudoku puzzles, reading can help engage the mind as we age. While there is no proof that reading can prevent diseases of cognitive decay like Alzheimer’s or dementia, studies do show that older men and women who read every day show a maintained level of cognitive function. Additionally, those who engage in mentally stimulating activities like reading are less likely to develop brain lesions and plaques which often lead to mental disease.
Many of us know the feeling of deeply connecting with literary characters when reading a book. When we feel for fictional people, we practice our ability to empathize and sympathize. Studies have shown that in doing this, we show an increased ability to understand the emotions and feelings of others in our real lives. This is called the “theory of mind”. The theory of mind is a set of skills that are necessary for fostering and facilitating our social relationships. Long-term readers tend to be better developed in this area of their lives.
If all these previous benefits weren’t enough, research has shown that reading may actually help you live longer. In a study that followed 3,635 participants for a 12 year period, the results showed that those who were active readers ended up living 2 years longer than those who didn’t. Additionally, those who clocked about 3 ½ hours per week were 23 percent more likely to live longer as compared to those who didn’t. This study specifically studied those who read books over other forms of media, like magazines.
There really is no reason to not read. It has benefits that extend far past just those that exist in the classroom setting. Reading is an accessible activity that most any person can partake in. Whether you’re into fiction or nonfiction, fantasy or biographies, any book that interests you can increase your quality of life. So pick up a book, get reading, and change your life.
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