When I talk about a book or have a book in my hands, people often ask me “how can you read? I just don’t have the attention span or the interest in reading!” I usually reply with a shrug and say “well, you should try it sometime.” I then wonder why people don’t have the desire to read. Movies and TV shows are an intricate part of our culture, so why don’t people see books the same way when they are so similar? On top of the sheer entertainment value of books, reading is proven to have mental benefits. Here are four of the top reasons everyone should pick up a book and reap the benefits:
1. Reading can delay and possibly prevent dementia
Yes you read that right! Reading has been shown to improve mental health so much so that it can delay and possibly prevent dementia. The Treviso Longeva Study in 2009 administered the test of mental health called the Mini Mental State Examination, or MMSE, on adults with an average age of 84. Normal ranges of this test are between 27-30 with anything below 27 being in the “impaired” range. They found that the adults who read novels had an average score of 27.3 while those who did not read had an average score of 21. Not reading meant that the average adult was six points under the normal range!
2. Reading increases intelligence
By picking up a book and reading, you are exposing yourself to a significantly higher amount of vocabulary words (about 50% more) than if you were to watch TV or movies (Abigal Wise- “8 Science-Backed Reasons to Read a (Real) Book”). Having an intricate vocabulary leads to higher test scores on standardized tests or IQ tests.
3. Reading improves empathy
Martijn Veltkamp performed a study in the Netherlands to determine if reading a novel had an impact on empathy. His study concurred that those who fall into the story, meaning being emotionally connected with the characters (which isn’t hard to do), had an increased level of empathy towards others. This could be due to the fact that “the simulation of real-world experiences in fiction might be associated with processes that people use in daily life to comprehend what happens in the world” (How Does Fiction Reading Influence Empathy? An Experimental Investigation on the Role of Emotional Transportation). Starting children off young to reading could enhance their social encounters with their peers because of the increased empathy, a skill that helps understand others.
4. Reading reduces stress and improves sleep
A cognitive psychologist Dr. David Lewis conducted a study where participants underwent activities that increased heart rate and stress levels. After reading for just six minutes after these activities, the participants had lower stress levels than before they had engaged in the stressful activity! Imagine what a good hour would do! Dr. Lewis also said, “[reading is] more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.” Because of the de-stressing nature of reading, sleep habits can improve. Sleep experts say that finding an activity that lowers stress levels before bedtime makes it easier to fall asleep. (See Tyson, the adorable Papillon on the left, enjoying some bedtime reading to help him fall asleep).
With all of these amazing benefits to reading, I think I found my answer to the question everyone always asked me about how I can read. Not only am I getting lost in an amazing story, I am reaping the four benefits stated above. So get reading and see the difference for your self!