Even though many of us do most of our reading in the form of texts or Facebook posts, there are good reasons to pick up an actual book on a regular basis. Reading—specifically, reading real books—has been linked to a wide range of mental, physical, and social health benefits. It’s easy to reap these rewards; simply develop a consistent reading plan and stick to it. Need some convincing? Here’s what to expect when you become an avid reader.
You’ll keep your brain in top shape
Research has found that reading stimulates the brain and helps prevent cognitive decline, thereby helping the brain function properly for the long term (avid readership may even help prevent Alzheimer’s disease). This may be partly because from a neurobiological perspective, reading is more challenging than looking at images or listening to a speech or audio book. That means that we have to focus, concentrate, and rely on memory recall in the pursuit of new knowledge—all of which gives the brain a workout. In other words? Reading is one of the most affordable and accessible brain boosters. The earlier you become a regular reader, the greater the benefits later in life, so pick up a book ASAP.
You’ll be motivated to accomplish goals
Research out of Ohio State University found that reading about a character or person who overcame obstacles can motivate you to do the same, reports Reader’s Digest. Looking to hike the Appalachian Trail or finally quit that soul-sucking job? Reading about people who already accomplished those goals can make you more likely to follow through.
You’ll become more empathetic
Multiple studies have confirmed that reading fiction that “emotionally transports” you into another world, character, or perspective can boost your ability to understand or identify with the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of other people. And that means you’ll be better able to form meaningful relationships (or at least cut telemarketers some slack).
You’ll reduce stress
In one study, reading was found to be one of the most effective ways to eliminate stress (It proved even more effective than listening to music, taking a walk, or drinking a cup of tea). That may be partly because reading helps reduce stress hormones like cortisol. It only took participants six minutes of reading before they started to relax, so dive into a paperback if you’re ever in need of a quick pick-me-up.
You’ll fall asleep easier
Developing a calming bedtime routine is helpful for anyone looking to fall asleep faster and get better quality shut-eye. For better sleep, ditch alcohol, electronics, and cigarettes before bed and pick up a book instead—reading is a great way to unwind and relax before turning off the light.
You’ll become more interesting
Reading allows us to learn new things, gain fresh perspectives, and expand our minds. And that means readers can not only teach themselves new skills or knowledge, but also share it with other people. It certainly beats talking about the weather.
You’ll be more satisfied with your life
One survey found that adults who read for a minimum of 30 minutes a week were 20 percent more likely to report feeling satisfied with their lives and also reported having higher self-esteem and greater self-acceptance than non-readers. The survey’s authors theorized that this is partly because reading can help us feel less alone by connecting us to other people’s experiences. In fact, the same survey found that readers tend to be more socially engaged and appreciative of cultural diversity than non-readers—all of which can infuse a life with more meaning.
You’ll save money
The average novel costs around $13 for a new paperback version; you’ll spend even less if you shop at used book stores. Compare that to the money spent on other forms of entertainment such as eating out, sporting events, or nights out at the bar. That’s not to say that you need to become a hermit, but swapping in the occasional reading night for other, more expensive entertainment options will give your wallet a break.
Convinced? If you’re ready to become a reader but aren’t sure how to begin, start by choosing books or genres that interest you the most (and don’t be embarrassed if that includes romance novels or self-help books). It can also be helpful to cancel cable TV or your Netflix account (gasp!), to schedule in reading time on your calendar, or to join a book group so that other people can help hold you accountable to your reading goals. However you choose to approach it, developing a reading plan will do your mind and body good.
Featured photo credit: Moyan Brenn via flickr.com