Here’s How Reading Can Help You Stay Mentally Fit And Young
Ever since you were a little kid, you were always told by your teachers, parents and tutors to read. Initially, you might have just read story books, but as you grew up, you were probably asked you to start reading magazines and newspapers as well.
There is no doubt that reading can be quite entertaining and can keep you engrossed for hours, but have you ever really wondered why? Or, perhaps, what are its actual benefits?
While some of you may have truly enjoyed reading the Harry Potter series and probably read it because it took you to magical places, you were also doing yourself a huge favor.
As shown via research, reading has a great many health benefits. For one, it can help you stay mentally fit and young. Although it may sound too good to be true, here are some science-backed ways that show how amazingly healthy reading is for your mind and body.
It takes away the stress
Most of us choose to listen to some slow and melodious piece of music or perhaps watch something on television when we feel stressed out.
Then there are people who prefer curling up with a good book, and once they finish reading, they feel de-stressed and much more put together. There is a scientific reason that explains the positive effect of reading on your cortisol levels.
Researchers at the University of Sussex conducted a study where participants were made to try a few relaxing methods like going for a walk, listening to music, reading and having a cup of tea.
Participants’ heart rates and stress levels were monitored while they performed each of these relaxation techniques.
The results showed that reading was the best and most effective method to de-stress and reduced stress levels by 68 percent. Dr Lewis, the author of the study, said that “By losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book, you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world….”
Enhances your memory
Just like the body needs exercise to stay strong, the brain needs an exercise of its own to stay fit.
Ken Pugh from Yale’s Haskins Laboratories says that reading can be a great mental exercise for your mind. It works the memory muscles and also exercises parts of the brain that deal with language, vision and learning.
In doing so, it forces the reader to pay attention, be alert and remember the most minute details. This also happens because reading allows us to develop greater insight and comprehension where our intelligence and concentration are called to action. All this increased mental activity eventually helps sharpen the memory.
Reading can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
Reading doesn’t only affect your general, day-to-day memory but also significantly enhances age-related mental decline.
It is particularly effective in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease which means that one should devote at least a few minutes to reading every day.
Researchers have also observed that reading the newspaper or an article in a magazine didn’t have the same effect as being fully absorbed in a book. This difference occurs because when we read a book, we are fully gripped by the plot and are moving back and forth between different characters, events and personalities.
The constant to and fro acts as a fantastic exercise for the brain where it creates new pathways and synapses that keep our mental functioning intact.
Helps one sleep better
If you often face difficulty or trouble falling asleep at night, perhaps you should try reading a book or novel before bedtime. Research has it that reading before bedtime can help you sleep better and faster.
Reading a physical book rather than an e-book or e-magazine eases that process of transition where you shift from the state of being awake and alert to being peaceful, calm and drowsy.
All it does is it helps you relax and unwind before you are finally ready to fall asleep. If you are not fond of books, you can try going through a short story or two – perfect for a quick round of bedtime reading.
Makes your brain stronger and more agile
Memory isn’t the only function of the brain that is enhanced by reading, but all of your cognitive and mental faculties get strengthened when you read regularly.
Reading keeps your mind completely active and occupied which makes it healthier and stronger in the long-run. According to a study published Neurology.org, adopting a habit of reading from childhood all the way to old age can significantly slow down cognitive decline.
Participants in the study who were engaged in mental activities like reading had a 38 percent slower rate of mental decline than those who read seldom or didn’t perform brain-boosting activities regularly. This goes to show that regardless of your age, it is never too late to pick up a book to keep your brain fit.
It can increase your concentration and attention span
We have so many distractions like smartphones and social media around us and our attention spans have become shorter as a result. Our ability to concentrate on things fully has also lowered.
But according to a neuroscientist, Baroness Susan Greenfield, reading is the antidote that can help improve attention spans, particularly in children. Reading also makes it easy for them to think clearly and pay full attention. Because stories have a proper structure, i.e. beginning, middle and end, it promotes the ability of the brain to think in a sequence which helps one hold their attention for longer time periods.
It can make you smarter
Who wouldn’t like to be smarter? In a paper called ‘What Reading Does For The Mind’, researchers explain that reading can help you be smarter and more intelligent.
It also enables you to retain all the information that you store while reading as you mature and get older. Reading acts as a great contributor to the growth in our verbal skills and declarative knowledge where it introduces you to new words that advance your vocabulary.
A more extensive vocabulary range has been linked with higher test scores which suggests that reading does make you smart in the long run.
Among the numerous brain-boosting mental activities, reading indeed takes the lead where it greatly impacts your mental health and improves your cognitive functioning.
“While initially the effects may not be that apparent and one may struggle to see concrete results, however, in the long-run, it paves the way for good mental health. Because reading fosters brain agility and longevity, in doing so, it also helps your brain stay young and active.
It is equally important to consider here that reading isn’t just beneficial for mental functioning; it also strengthens your emotional health and enhances your ability to empathize with people and simultaneously improve your social relationships and connections.”