It probably won’t surprise you to learn I love books. Reading is my “happy place.” I have two different bookshelves in my home: one for the fiction books I loved as a child, and one full of craft books and modern-day favorites. And my Amazon Kindle library? My to-read list? Don’t even get me started.
Like most bookworms will tell you, reading is fun and exciting. It introduces you to characters you can bond with until the end of their journey. It transports you to different places and periods in time. The right book can move a reader to tears, action, or just plain excitement. But would it surprise you to learn reading is more than fun? What if I said reading is actually good for your health? Besides providing us with a mental break from the “real world,” what else do books have to offer us?
Reading reduces stress. Snuggling up with a glass of wine and a good book sounds relaxing because it is. Whether you’re reading a fantasy space opera or a historical romance, engrossing yourself in a character’s story can melt away the stress of your own. Even if you only read for half an hour a day, that’s thirty minutes your brain is transported somewhere else to help you relax and unwind.
Reading fiction increases your ability to empathize with others. While fiction may concern imaginary worlds and people, getting wrapped up in the lives of the characters can strengthen your ability to understand what others are thinking and relate to their emotions. Fiction often introduces readers to the thoughts and feelings of main characters, helping us recognize and understand those emotions around us later.
Reading improves your memory. Your brain is a muscle. Like any other, it strengthens with regular exercise. The same way going for a run each morning improves your cardiovascular muscles, reading every day is a powerful workout for your brain. Personally, I’m only a handful of books away from being able to remember where I set my keys…
Reading increases intelligence. I know a lot of people who rail against this idea, pointing out that there are several different types of intelligence. As true as that may be, it’s hard to deny the benefits reading offers. Reading can expose you to new ideas and concepts, increase your understanding of diverse topics, and improve your vocabulary. Simply put, reading daily makes you smarter.
Reading improves your abilities as a writer. Seriously, I cannot stress this point enough. I’ll probably do an entire post on this point alone in the future. One of the most frustrating things you can say to another writer or an editor is, “Oh yeah, I don’t read. I don’t have time/don’t want to tamper with my ideas/whatever other silly reason.” No. No, no, no. The best writers are avid readers. Reading can lend inspiration, help you understand your genre and conventions, and expose you to different writing styles and voices that might influence your work. We’ll come back to this one (it’s a big one), but reading is one of the easiest ways to become a better writer.
Reading improves your focus and concentration. In today’s world, the pace can feel breakneck. Our attention is split in a million directions at once. We’ll drink our morning coffee while scrolling through Facebook with a podcast playing in the background. But how much of what we’re hearing or seeing can we retain when our attention is so divided? While reading a good book, on the other hand, all our attention and focus tends to go towards the character and finding out what happens next. Reading for even fifteen minutes can tell our brains, “Hey, it’s time to focus up and concentrate on this.”
From graphic novels to fantasy epics, there’s a genre for everyone. Next time you’re wondering what to do with your Saturday afternoon, why not head to your local library? Not only will you find a wealth of characters and inspiration waiting for you, but you might even improve your health.
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