People who read books instead of watching Netflix late at night often have these 9 character traits

Look, I’m not knocking Netflix.

I have an account myself. And who among us hasn’t stayed up late at night, promising to go to sleep after just one more episode of their favorite series and then regretting it when morning comes too soon?

In fact, in many ways, binge-watching is like a drug.

Because it makes us feel good, binge-watching releases dopamine in our brains, which can cause addictive behavior.

“Our behaviors and thoughts, when repeated over time, can become actual neural patterns and habits that are hard to break or change,” says psychiatrist Danesh A. Alam.

And staying up late enjoying your favorite show has other negative effects on your health, including:

  •       depression and anxiety
  •       back problems from poor posture
  •       lowered respiratory function
  •       poor health from a more sedentary lifestyle

Fortunately, there are other ways to unwind after a stressful day before going to sleep. Reading, for example, is a great way to finish your day.

And people who reach for a book before they reach for the remote control often display these character traits, too.

1) Enhanced emotional intelligence

To put it simply, emotional intelligence describes your ability to relate to and understand other people. As you can imagine, this is an extremely positive characteristic to have. And it turns out, it’s something you can develop through reading.

That’s because reading puts you in the minds of other people. And that can improve your ability to understand the way others think – what scientists call theory of mind.

Perhaps surprisingly, there’s tons of research to suggest that reading – especially narratives – can enhance your ability to understand the way other people think.

Or maybe it’s not that surprising.

After all, your favorite Netflix show probably has a strong narrative. But what it can’t do as well as a good book can is put you in the mind of another person.

So often, people who make reading a regular habit have greater emotional intelligence than those who don’t.

2) Deeper empathy and understanding

Similar to the point above, there’s reason to believe that reading can enhance your empathy, or your ability to understand, appreciate, and even feel other people’s emotions.

The brain is not a muscle, but in some ways, it behaves like one. The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. So the more you exercise your ability to feel what other people feel, the better you’ll get at it.

Reading fiction, especially, can help you understand other people better. And the more highbrow the book, the greater the effect it has.

According to this article in The Guardian, reading literary fiction, which makes more demands on the reader, has a more powerful effect on the development of empathy.

In other words, if you really want to understand other people, put down the James Patterson and pick up some Dostoevsky instead.

3) Sharper cognitive abilities

Reading is good for more than just increasing your empathy. It can actually make you smarter, too.

Giving your brain a workout prevents it from atrophy. Your brain constantly prunes connections it’s not often using, and over time, this synaptic pruning  can cause your cognitive abilities to decline.

On the other hand, a study at the University of Berkeley, California found that reading lowers the levels of beta-amyloid, which is a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Other studies have found that reading can actually increase the amount of white matter in the brain. In other words, reading regularly helps your brain to grow.

4) Heightened creativity

When we read, we participate in the creation of a new world along with the author of the book we are reading. After all, we all have different ideas of what fictional characters look like. While watching TV is largely passive, reading forces us to imagine a new world for ourselves.

So it’s probably not a big surprise that reading also enhances creativity.

Not only does reading give your brain a boost, but it also allows you to see the world through the eyes of another person, or multiple people. And several studies show that people who make a regular habit of reading are often more creative.

That’s something you won’t get from hitting Play Next all night long.

5) Increased knowledge and intellectual curiosity

You can get many of the benefits of reading no matter what you read. However, what you choose to read can make a difference in the benefits you receive.

Reading just about anything may increase your knowledge. But as you would expect, reading nonfiction is one of the best ways to learn new things.

On the other hand, reading both fiction and nonfiction can boost your intellectual curiosity and make you want to know more. That’s especially true if you read books from different historical eras and cultures different from your own.

6) Better sleep patterns and mental well-being

sleep People who read books instead of watching Netflix late at night often have these 9 character traits

Many of the negative health effects of binge-watching come from reduced sleep. Staying up all night watching TV means you don’t get the sleep your body and brain need to help you function at your best.

Reading, on the other hand, can actually help you sleep better.

That’s because screens emit blue light which interferes with our brain’s production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for giving you a good night’s sleep. Books don’t do that.

Instead, reading a good book can help you relax and drift off to sleep more easily. One more reason to keep a book handy on your bedside table.

7) Better focus

I love to read. At the same time, I’ll admit that reading requires more from us than watching TV. That’s why, when we are tired, it’s so tempting to reach for the remote control instead of a book.

But it’s precisely because reading requires more of us that it is so good for our brains.

As I mentioned earlier, reading gives your brain a workout. And the more you use your powers of focus, the stronger they become.

In other words, reading in bed can help you get better at concentrating. And that’s a character trait that can help you in your work life and your social life throughout the day.

8) Formation of stronger interpersonal skills

Reading is normally a solitary activity. So it might sound strange to hear that it can help you get along better with others.

Of course, there’s the increased empathy that comes from putting yourself in the shoes of a character and learning more about the world around you.

Plus, being more imaginative, more able to focus, and having a broader range of knowledge to draw on can all make you a more interesting person to be around.

So while reading may be something you do all by yourself at night, it can help you form better relationships with the people around you.

9) Impact on self-reflection and personal growth

It’s almost magical how reading can change who you are.

If you’re looking to improve yourself, there are millions of self-help books out there packed with great ideas on how to improve your life.

Or you could go old school and absorb the wisdom of some of history’s greatest thinkers like Plato, Schopenhauer, or Nietzsche.

On the other hand, the psychological insights you can gain from reading a masterpiece of fiction can help you understand yourself better. We all have a little bit of Hamlet or Macbeth inside us, a trace of Ivan Karamazov or a touch of Jane Eyre.

Understanding more about the way people operate through a fictional world can help you come to understand yourself on a deeper level.

In fact, there are virtually limitless ways in which a reading habit can help you grow as a person. There’s so much to learn, and few better ways to go in-depth on the subject than with a good book.

Granted, some of the very best TV shows out there explore character at a depth close to that of great novels. But they are few and far between.

Great books, on the other hand, are everywhere.

Put down the remote control

There’s a place for TV in our lives. Sometimes, relaxing in front of the screen is exactly what you need to decompress.

Still, given all the negative effects that come with binge-watching, it’s better not to make a habit of it.

Instead, consider cultivating the habit of reading at night instead. There are so many ways it can improve your life, it seems almost silly not to.

Picture of Ryan Frawley

Ryan Frawley

Ryan Frawley is a France-based writer with a passion for psychology, philosophy, science, and anything that attempts to answer life’s biggest questions.

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