When was the last time you read something substantial, such as a book or a long-form magazine article?
Or are your reading habits centered more around social media status updates and short-form news briefs?
If you’re one of the numerous people who don’t read regularly, you may be missing out.
In this article, we’ll cover 15 incredible benefits of reading, some of which are backed by scientific studies.
1. Promotes mental health
Research suggests that people who keep their brains active by reading or playing mentally challenging games like chess are 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who spend their down time on less stimulating activities.
Studies have shown that staying mentally alert can slow the progress of (or possibly even prevent) Alzheimer’s and dementia.
2. Reduces stress
Snuggling up with a good book can transport you to the magic of other worlds away from immediate worries, reducing stress.
A 2009 study by the University of Sussex found that reading for just six minutes can reduce stress levels by up to 68%.
Dr Lewis, Cognitive Neuropsychologist told the Telegraph: “Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation. This is particularly poignant in uncertain economic times when we are all craving a certain amount of escapism.”
A well-written, substantial article can have the same effect.
3. Improves general knowledge
If you want to be a well-rounded human being capable of holding a conversation on a variety of topics, you need to be a reader. And your reading material needn’t be any serious subject matter for you to pick up some tidbits of information that can come in handy someday.
I have never met a well-read person who is not also an interesting person. But I’ve come across quite a number of boring people who clearly never open a book.
Besides, the more knowledge you have, the better equipped you are to handle many of life’s challenges. Which brings me to the next point.
4. More empathetic
Reading about the life and times of people who live or lived in different circumstances from you, can make it easier for you to understand and relate to those who are different from you. A book on gay relationships can be a real eye-opener if you are straight; a book on the life of an African living in Paris can be equally revealing.
Books are there to open the world up for us; to take us out of our own environment and show us the realities of others out there. Some books have the power to change your mind and outlook completely.
5. Expands vocabulary
The more you read, the more your vocabulary improves. The more your vocabulary improves, the better you can express your own thoughts and feelings. Language is such a wonderful tool with so many fantastic words for us to use to express ourselves.
People who are able to use language skillfully with a wide range of descriptive vocabulary have always captured the imagination and admiration of others.
It is a fact that the ability to be articulate impresses others and paves the way to promotions, leadership roles, and public office.
Researchers from Spain’s University of Santiago de Compostela found that a rich vocabulary delays mental decline. The broader your vocabulary, the better your chance of mental health well into old age.
6. Improves writing skills
This goes hand-in-hand with improved vocabulary. People who read a lot, especially well-written material, absorb different writing styles and are able to emulate a good writing style because they are subconsciously influenced by it.
The more you read and the better quality writing you read, the more it will improve your own writing ability.
(Coursera has a number of academic courses for better writing. Check out my Coursera review for 2020 here).
7. Stronger analytical thinking skills
A typical “whodunit” which many readers find so enthralling poses a mystery that is a challenge for readers to solve, which helps develop their analytical skills. It is thrilling to read a mystery and try to solve the mystery yourself. Even if you don’t solve it, you still practised your critical and analytical thinking in the most pleasurable way.
8. Improves memory
In order to follow a plot you have to remember quite a lot and that is good practice for your brain. You have to remember a range of characters, their backgrounds, actions, roles in the plot, as well as the various sub-plots that make up the story. After all, you won’t comprehend what you’re reading if you don’t remember certain details as you read. So reading, keeps the brain’s memorizing ability in practice.
9. Improves focus and concentration
Reading a substantial piece of writing strengthens your focus because it requires focus to read. Unless you focus, you won’t follow what you’re reading.
In fact, reading is an antidote to today’s obsession with multi-tasking – writing an email while chatting online, keeping an eye on your phone, drinking coffee and checking reactions on your Twitter feed. This habit scatters attention and hampers productivity – actually, you get very little done.
Reading requires focus, something that often is sorely lacking in our society. Making time to read 15-20 minutes every day can improve your ability to focus and ultimately help you to be more productive.
10. Free entertainment
Isn’t it great that you can have yourself transported to a different world through a well-written book at no cost to yourself? Books are pricey, but you don’t have to buy them. There are libraries where books cost nothing and secondhand books stores where they cost next to nothing, in addition to online resource where you can download free e-books.
11. Boosts sleep
Most avid readers can attest to this. There is nothing quite like falling asleep with a book in your hands. Reading is like a sleeping pill, it is relaxing and sleep-inducing, especially if you’re tired and stressed out.
Reading doesn’t only help you to fall asleep, it also improves your overall sleep quality. Since it’s relaxing and helps you to de-stress, reading can lead you into a deep and restful sleep.
12. Inner tranquility
In addition to reducing your overall stress levels, it’s possible that the subject you’re reading about brings you an immense amount of inner peace and tranquillity.
Reading spiritual texts, for example, has been demonstrated to lower blood pressure. Self-help books can assist people in dealing with mood disorders.
Whatever inner state you’re seeking to attain, there’s likely a book that will help get you there.
13. You become better at conversations
This one comes from personal experience.
I was spending time with a friend recently when she said the nicest thing. “Justin”, she said, “I really enjoy spending time with you because the conversations are always interesting. You always bring something up from a book you’ve just read and it blows my mind.”
Reading regularly gives me much to think about, which means I’ve got an endless amount of new topics to explore when I’m with my friends. We have much better conversations as a result.
14. Reading is a workout for your brain
There’s a difference between passively watching television and actively reading.
When you’re reading, you’re training your mind to focus on new information and take it in. As mentioned earlier, this improves analytical skills and memory.
It means that reading becomes a workout for your brain.
According to Ken Pugh, president of Haskins Laboratories:
“[P]arts of the brain that have evolved for other functions — such as vision, language, and associative learning — connect in a specific neural circuit for reading, which is very challenging.”
In short, reading spurs your brain to think and concentrate.
15. Reading is contagious
Finally, it’s good to know that your love of reading is going to have important downstream consequences, especially if you have children.
When people around you read, you’re more likely to do so yourself.
You can take advantage of this fact by regularly reading out loud to your children at home. A new report from Scholastic suggests that reading out loud to kids through their early schooling inspires them to become frequent readers in adulthood.
In turn, they’re more likely to inspire their own kids to become readers as well.
In an age of information overload, it’s fantastic that more and more people are understanding the benefits of reading. It’s a fantastic way to expand the mind.
Why is it good to read every day?
It’s clear that there are significant benefits from reading.
The next question is:
What will you do about it?
If you want to get the most benefits from reading, I think it logically follows that you should start reading everyday.
When you read everyday, you’re regularly engaging your brain in a workout.
Yet it’s not enough to have the intention to read more. You have to actually get started and make it happen.
I recommend implementing the following simple rule into your life:
Every day, don’t go to sleep unless you’ve read at least one page of a book.
Here’s a few ideas on how to implement this rule:
- Have a fiction book beside your bed. When you go to bed without having read a page of a book that day, you have your solution next to you. It will actually help you to fall asleep.
- Keep a book in your bag or briefcase that you usually take to work. Read a page on your lunch or coffee breaks.
- Create a routine of reading in the evenings. Go to a quiet place at home or at a local park and read a single page.
The reason to have the goal of reading only a single page is that it makes it manageable. It’s easy to read a single page.
You’ll likely read many more pages per day, and end up reading dozens of books per year.
Keep your goals simple. Start to read a single page every day. Change your habits and routines and your life will also change.
What is the main purpose of reading?
The main purpose of reading is to connect the ideas on the page to what you already know.
If you don’t know much about a subject, reading will seem more difficult. It will take longer to build up a stock of knowledge to relate the new information to.
But if you read about a subject you already have existing knowledge of, you’ll be connect what you’re reading with what you already know.
Something special then happens. When you’re sleeping that night, your brain will reformulate the connections between different ideas in your head. Check out the video below where I explain this process:
Reading enhances the creative process by providing more inputs to your eventual creative output.
Why is reading important in today’s society?
Reading is an underrated activity. But it’s becoming more important in today’s society.
The reason is simple. We are living in a society with an increasing availability of information. We are bombarded with images throughout all forms of communication technology.
At the same time, the average length of our attention spans is decreasing.
Reading is an activity you can engage in to buck this trend. You’ll improve your concentration spans and learn how to be more discerning in the face of so much information.
Do you want to start reading more?
I recommend joining the Big Idea Club with the curators Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, Adam Grant and Daniel Pink. They select two new books every month for you to read with exclusive discounts on the books. And you get to discuss the books with them and a membership community. There’s loads more benefits and they also donate profits to a number of charities. Check them out here.
Finally, if you’re looking for 9 science-backed reasons why reading makes you smarter, check out the infographic below by Geediting.