People have been sharing information and inspiration with each other through books for thousands of years. Today we all have many different options for entertainment and gathering knowledge, yet books remain popular. Across all genres, book sales are higher than ever—and the number of new titles published each year is increasing.
Books now come in a variety of formats, including electronic books and audio books alongside more traditional printed volumes. Newsstands are full of magazines, with issues tailored to meet just about any interest. With so many options from which to choose, it’s easier than ever to find a medium that works for you—so you can read more every day.
Reading has many benefits for your mind, body and mood. Researchers have been studying the impact that reading has on your health and well-being, and the results are overwhelmingly positive. Reading can even help move you toward your weight loss goal.
Keep reading this article to find out why making time to read more is good for you.
1. Release stress.
Our daily lives can be so busy and hectic, they leave us feeling anxious and even overwhelmed. What is a healthy way to relieve some of this daily pressure?
Reading for 30 minutes reduces blood pressure, heart rate and feelings of distress, according to the results of research, published in the Journal of College Teaching and Learning. And since stress is a common cause of overeating, reading can help you stay on track toward your weight loss goals.
2. Sleep better.
If you have trouble sleeping at night, reading helps because it reduces the physical symptoms of stress that otherwise might keep you awake. A physical book also helps offset the effects of the type of blue light emitted by televisions and cell phones. If left unchecked, this blue light can prevent your body from producing melatonin, the hormone that helps you to fall asleep.
Reading a book at bedtime relaxes your body, prepares your brain for rest and distracts your mind from everyday cares and worries. Sleeping better helps you lose weight because when you are overly tired, you’re more likely to eat unhealthy foods. Once again, read more to stay on-track to better physical health.
3. Exercise your brain.
Just like our muscles, our minds need regular activity to keep them strong and flexible. Research shows that reading regularly improves and maintains our cognitive abilities. This has benefits at any age, but it’s especially valuable as we get older. One study, published in the journal Neurology, found that people who engage in mentally stimulating activities like reading were less likely to develop late-life cognitive decline.
Experts at Psychology Today explain, “Those people who reported that they read were protected against brain lesions and tangles and self-reported memory decline over the 6-year study. In addition, remaining an avid reader into old age reduced memory decline by more than 30%, compared to engaging in other forms of mental activity.”
4. Live longer.
So reading may not actually extend your life span, but an interesting national “Health and Retirement Study” followed 3,635 adults for 12 years. According to Harvard Health, “They determined that people who read books regularly had a 20% lower risk of dying over the next 12 years compared with people who weren’t readers or who read periodicals.” This protective effect of books remained regardless of gender, wealth, education or health.
5. Find comfort and inspiration.
Other people’s stories can reassure us that everyone faces obstacles to success and remind us that we can overcome our own challenges. Biographies, memoirs and other true tales show us how they have managed to take on adversity and make the best of themselves.
Bookshelves today also are full of self-help books, written by a wide variety of experts, such as psychologists and life coaches. These books encourage us to believe in ourselves and help guide our thinking about what to expect from ourselves. Good habits of the mind are as important as your eating habits when you’re working toward your healthiest self.
6. Fire your imagination.
When you read, your imagination is activated, giving you a different perspective than you have in your daily life. Reading can take you to far-off places and carry you away, if only temporarily, from your everyday stress. Reading can give you an understanding of other people and cultures without the logistics and costs of travel; this perspective can help you to better see who you are and what choices you make. Imagining yourself reaching your own goals is a big step toward achieving them.
7. Think fresh.
The little voice inside our head that guides our thoughts can be a positive or negative force for our mental and physical well-being, and tends to be limited to the set of experiences we’ve lived.
Reading lets us in on how other people think, and allows us to know how they view themselves and other people. Learning about others’ perspectives can give us insight into our own thought patterns and biases, and show us how to focus our thinking in ways that are beneficial for us.
8. Socialize through books.
Many people enjoy sharing their reading experiences with others. If you want to connect with people, you can try to read more and then meet up with people in a book club. Whether in-person or virtual, book clubs are an enriching way to connect with different people and to learn about them and yourself.
Some book clubs focus on specific types of books, others choose whatever interests the group. Joining a book club is a healthy way to socialize and interact in a positive environment. Social media is a good place to search for reading groups that suit you.
9. Choices for everyone.
For many people, reading is a chore they associate with boring school assignments. But there are so many kinds of books to pick from today that you are sure to find some that entertain and enlighten you. Whatever interests you have, you can find books on those subjects that you can then enjoy in your downtime. That includes everything from cooking and baking to true crime to history to fantasy.
The librarians at your local library and the staff at bookstores can be helpful resources to guide you to the kinds of books that you’ll love. Online sellers make books on nearly every topic easily accessible to you, and they can make recommendations based on other books you’ve already enjoyed. All of these can open up the world of books and its benefits to you, setting you on the path to read more.
4 Tips to Read More.
Try these hints for fitting reading time into your busy days.
Set a time to read. Many people like to read before bedtime. However, if you tend to nod off before you turn the page, make a standing appointment with yourself to read for just 15 minutes at another time of day. Try to read more first thing in the morning, during mid-afternoon coffee breaks or after dinner—whatever fits your schedule best.
Find a quiet spot. Look for a place where you’ll be free of distractions. That could be inside your home, on a balcony or even in a park. When your mind can focus, you’ll soon be lost in the world of the book.
Watch less. Try reading instead of binge watching TV and Netflix shows. Before sitting down to watch, open a book first and give yourself the 15 minutes of reading. Before long, you’ll be “binge reading.”
Bring a book. Many days include some time spent sitting and waiting for appointments and killing time while the kids are playing sports or in other activities. Keep a book handy and you’ll be ready to dig in wherever you are.