When was the last time you picked up a book and had a really good read?
I’m not talking about a Kindle or other e-book style device. I’m talking about a good old fashioned paperback (remember those?) where you can experience the sensation of turning those new pages and savour that unique smell.
Despite a rise in digital media, it seems that the good old-fashioned paperback is going nowhere with many of us still enjoying taking delivery of something tangible that we can hold in our hands.
In fact, in 2018, there were 675 million printed books sold in the U.S alone, which enforces that argument.
As it turns out, picking up the latest release from your favourite author not only entertains you, it also goes a long way in improving your overall health and wellbeing.
If you don’t spend sufficient time reading each day, you could be seriously missing out on some significant health benefits.
Below we list eight surprising ways that picking up a book each day could help to improve both your mental and physical health.
Stressful situations are all around us. Whether it’s family, work, relationships or money; we all experience stress in our lives at some point.
Unfortunately, stress can also be a risk factor for a number of dangerous physical and mental diseases including Alzheimer's, diabetes, depression and heart disease.
Thankfully, one great way to relieve stress is to get lost in a good book.
A well-written novel will have the ability to transport you into a new realm allowing you to relax, disconnect and escape from the stresses of everyday life.
A 2009 study showed that reading for just 30 minutes can help to lower our blood pressure, heart rate and feelings of psychological distress just as effectively as yoga and humour.
Helps you to empathise
Someone who reads is more likely to identify with the lives of others and will have an easier time placing themselves in the shoes of another person.
This, in turn, helps to heighten our ability to understand the feelings and beliefs of other people and at the same time, improve our social and communication skills.
Scientific studies have shown that those who are long-term fiction readers, may possess a greater ability to connect with other people.
Improves mental stimulation and cognitive decline
Just like any other muscle in the body, your brain requires regular exercise. The phrase “use it or lose it” most definitely applies to the old grey matter.
Scientists and researchers have confirmed that the brain is made up of complex networks, circuits and signals. When these are developed, they make our brains stronger and more sophisticated. Reading literally rewires our brains!
A number of studies have also shown that mental stimulation can also slow the progress of cognitive decline associated with diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia.
Keeping our brains consistently active with reading and other mental activities such as playing board games or doing puzzles, will ultimately help to maintain our mental prowess.
Expands your vocabulary
It’s logical that the more words you are exposed to, the more they will become a part of your everyday vocabulary.
Research has shown that students who read regularly from an early age, gradually develop larger vocabularies.
This can help in many areas of life including improving your chances of performing better in tests and exams. Expanding your vocabulary also helps you to become more articulate, helping you to communicate better both face-to-face and in writing.
Having an extensive vocabulary is also thought to be one of the single best predictors for success in our careers. Those who are well-spoken, will generally do better at work and are more likely to secure the job they are after or a promotion within the company.
Promotes better concentration
In order to comprehend what you are reading, you need to focus and concentrate 100% on the words on the page.
Reading on a regular basis will not only help develop your concentration, but it will also help to improve your attention span, which is not only good for reading but also important in many other areas of our lives.
Helps alleviate symptoms of depression
Reading is great for our mental health and that means it is good to help alleviate the symptoms of depression.
When we feel depressed our minds are usually occupied with negative thoughts.
However, taking time out to read a positive book can help to keep our minds focused on something else and not be consumed by the negative thoughts that may be causing us to feel so low.
Although reading won’t tackle the root causes of depression, it may well help you to temporarily detach from your problems and take back control.
Improves your memory
When we do physical activities such as running or cycling, we work our cardiovascular system making it more robust and able to fight potential diseases.
Likewise, reading gives our brains a thorough workout and at the same time improves our ability to remember.
When we read a book, we have to remember the storyline including the characters, their history, the plot and other important aspects. Doing this on a regular basis helps to strengthen our brain's ability to memorise such information.
A great advantage of reading is that it strengthens and develops the pathways or ‘synapses’ in our brains, helping to improve our short-term memory recall.
Helps you relax and get a good night's sleep
Hands up if you spend too much time reading your phone or tablet prior to bedtime!
Many of us are guilty of this and wonder why it takes us so long to fall asleep.
Tech devices emit a blue light that disrupts our internal clock and makes it harder for us to wind down prior to going to sleep.
By reading a book prior to bedtime, you not only forget the stresses of the day, you also train your brain to associate the activity with sleeping. This will ultimately make it much easier for you to fall asleep.
A 2009 study by the University of Sussex found that reading a book prior to bedtime can help with insomnia.
The study showed that by reading for just six minutes you reduce your stress levels by up to 68%. This helps clear the mind of negative thoughts and prepares it for a good night's sleep.
Author of the study Dr. David Lewis said that reading a book was “more than merely a distraction, but an active engaging of the imagination,” one that “causes you to enter an altered state of consciousness.”
So ditch the smartphone and get yourself a book instead.
So there you have it! Ten reasons why picking up a good old-fashioned page-turner may promote better physical and mental health.
Fun quotes about reading
“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“If you are going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books.” – Roald Dahl
“If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.” – J.K. Rowling
“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” – Margaret Fuller
“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” – Groucho Marx
“Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary.” – Jim Rohn
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin
"So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install a lovely bookshelf on the wall." – Roald Dahl
Disclaimer: Any information contained within this article is for your guidance only and must not be used for the basis of any self-diagnosis. In all instances, you are advised to speak to your GP or healthcare professional immediately if you are concerned about your health or intend to embark on a new health program.