Growing up, one of my absolute favorite things to do was read. Unlike “normal” kids my age who would get rewarded for their hard work with things such as an allowance, new video games or extended TV time before bed; my rewards came in the form of pages. Nothing excited me more than a trip to Barnes & Noble or walking down to the local library with my grandparents. I would spend hours getting lost in worlds created by the author; living and breathing alongside the characters, feeling their emotions and sharing their experiences as if I were one of them. The walls that I was surrounded by fell away, and a new environment was built around me. The only sounds I could hear were the ones echoing off the pages as the intricacies of another person’s adventure were being painted in my mind. Ten pages turned into thirty, which turned into seventy, and before I knew it, I was forced to snap back to reality as I finished the last word of the epilogue.
With experiences this amazing, why are avid readers becoming a dying breed? It’s simple, technology.
Many readers have fallen victim to the flashier, more “modern’” attention-grabbing activities. Additionally, there is a societal obsession with the idea of constantly being connected with the outside world. You may find that after reading a few sentences, there’s this tickle in the back of your mind, “I’ll just check my Facebook really quick” or “Maybe I got an important text message, I should look to be safe.” Suddenly, you’re zooming through a social media timeline filled with lip-syncing cats wearing funny little outfits. Not exactly how you planned to spend those 25 minutes.
So, before you decide to fall down the mind-numbing, thumb cramping tunnel of infinite scroll, I’ve dug a little deeper on the positive impacts reading has, and you might be surprised! Check it out.
It makes you smarter.
This is kind of an obvious one; reading expands knowledge. In fact, reading increases all three types of intelligence: crystallized (knowledge that’s derived from previous experiences and past experiences), fluid (involves the ability to think abstractly, reason, identify patterns and problem solve) and emotional (the ability to identify and recognize emotions, both in yourself and others). The more we read, the more we’re exposing ourselves to unfamiliar words. This results in them inescapably becoming part of our day-to-day vocabulary. And what’s cooler than impressing someone with big words that mean something so simple? For example: clandestine, insatiable, and vociferous … Sounds a lot better than secret, unappeasable, and loud… right?! Overall, reading causes an individual to become more articulate in their speech and thus makes them more confident in their words both orally and written.
It keeps your mind and memory sharp.
Mind exercising activities such as solving puzzles or reading stimulate the brain. According to a study published in The Official Journal of the American Academy of Neurology, individuals who engaged in mentally stimulating activities throughout their lives experienced dramatically slower memory decline (49% slower) compared to those who did not. In addition, those who make an effort to exercise their brains are 2.5x times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. As Dr. Robert Friedland points out in his 2001 study, “The brain is an organ just like every other organ in the body. It ages in regard to how it is used, just as physical activity strengthens the heart, muscles and bones, intellectual activity strengthens the brain against disease.”
It reduces stress.
The University of Sussex discovered that reading for just six minutes has the ability to reduce stress levels by 68%! By slowing down the heart rate and easing muscle tension, reading has been found more effective than other techniques such as listening to music or taking a walk.
It helps with our concentration.
More often than not, our mind and attention are in a million places at once. This makes our stress levels increase and productivity decrease. (Wamp, wamp, waaamp) However, when you’re focused on a book, “a sentence is shorthand for a lot of information that must be inferred by the brain. We are forced to construct, to produce narrative, to imagine,” says Maryanne Wolf, director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University. This causes our brain to concentrate solely on the activity at hand as it is called to action, which in turn, trains your brain to help you focus more in daily life.
So there you have it, folks, next time you find yourself with some free time, pick up a book. Your mind will thank you, and Netflix will forgive you, I promise.