Reading will improve your life

Image via Thinkstock
Image via Thinkstock

Why you should pick up a book and start reading

By Lauren Paulsen, Senior Columnist

A survey done in the U.S. showed that only 25 per cent of adults had read a book in the past year. In the same survey, it was found that even those who had read a book on average only read about four per year, and half of those people read even less. Those findings are astonishing, because the benefits of reading are so numerous.

To begin with, reading is an invaluable tool when it comes to learning. The most obvious result here is that it vastly improves your grammar and vocabulary. Fiction in particular will increase your vocabulary, because authors often employ the use of words that we don’t normally use every day. This increase in your grammar and vocabulary, in turn, will help you to become a better writer. Even if you don’t want a career in writing, it’s a great skill to have. Being articulate (without going overboard) really impresses people.

Reading can also enhance your analytical thinking. Overall, people who read have a greater repertoire of knowledge and are able to spot patterns quicker than non-readers. It allows them to find solutions to a problem that others may not think of. This is a great skill to develop while you spend your time in post secondary. Even fiction will help boost your analytical thinking because when you are reading a novel, your brain will often try to work out the developing plot ahead of time. This is especially true when it comes to mystery novels.

Because sitting down and reading a book takes long periods of focus and concentration, it really improves those skills. Although it may be hard to do at first, when you become completely engaged with a book your mind closes off the outside world. Over time, this improves your attention span.

Reading engages the brain in ways that passive activities, such as watching television, do not. When you are deeply immersed in a book, it also improves memory as you file way the information that you are reading. Research has found that adults who read more had less mental decline as they aged than their non-reading counterparts.

Reading is also a great way to relieve stress. Research at the University of Sussex found that reading happens to be the most effective way to overcome stress. After just six minutes of reading, participants’ heart rates dropped and their muscles relaxed. Interestingly, it was found that reading is a more effective way of relieving stress than listening to music, drinking a cup of tea, playing a video game, or taking a walk.

This also makes it a great way to help you get your sleep. Experts say that creating a sleep pattern helps you fall asleep easier because your body will associate those things with sleep. The relaxing benefits of reading right before bed do a great job of disengaging your mind from the days’ goings on. Make sure to use a physical book instead of a screen though, because a screen’s light can make falling asleep harder.

Books can even enhance your relationships and empathy. When we read about people we enter another person’s mental state, whether they are fictional or real. We empathize with them through their struggles and joys. We relate to them and go through their experiences with them. We can learn about different cultures and how to look at things from a different perspective. All of that helps us to engage with friends, family, and even strangers with more care and understanding.

Books also give us a way to experience things that we haven’t had the opportunity to do in real life. Research has shown that readers’ brains actually react to things in a book as if they are actually living the events they are reading about. Other research has shown that people who read about a certain skill are more adept at learning that skill.

Reading is also one of the cheapest forms of entertainment. You can literally gain unlimited free knowledge and entertainment from a library. So if you are one of those people who didn’t pick up a book last year, then dust off your library card and go check out some books. As Dr. Seuss once wrote, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”