Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Why Reading Is Good for Us

By Kay Kendall

This is the second of two installments about reading. Previously I described how much I enjoy reading and tried to figure out how that came to pass. I am guessing most of you also feel reading is enjoyable. For many people, however, reading is not a pleasurable pastime.

Reading is similar to chocolate. It tastes luscious to most people, but not to all. These days, however, we know through research that chocolate is a healthy thing to eat.
Scientific researchers have likewise come up with reasons why we should read. Here is a curated list of reasons scientists say reading should be done—not only for our enjoyment and increased knowledge, but for our mental and physical well-being.

 1. Reading is an effective way to overcome stress. Researchers at the University of Sussex found that reading relaxed the heart rate and muscle tension faster than other activities often said to be de-stressors—for example taking a walk, listening to music, and drinking tea. Note that the research was done in England, a bastion of tea drinkers, so this is really saying something shocking.

 2. Reading exercises our brains. As our bodies need movement to be strong, our brains need a work out too. Reading is a more complex activity than watching television and actually helps establish new neural pathways.

 3. Reading helps maintain our brains’ sharpness. Neurologists who studied brains of those who died around age 89 saw signs of a third less decline among those who stayed mentally active with reading, writing, and other modes of mental stimulation like puzzles, as compared to those who did little or none of those activities.

 4. Reading may even ward off Alzheimer's disease. Adults who pursue activities like reading or puzzles that involve the brain are less likely to have Alzheimer's disease. Intellectual activity not only grows our brain power but also strengthens brain against disease.

5. Reading may help us sleep better. Reading before bed is a good de-stressing habit, unlike watching flashing electronic devices or television that cue the brain to wake up.

6. Reading self-help books can ease depression. Reading books that encourage people to take charge of their own lives can promote the idea that positive change is possible. A control group that had “bibliotherapy” combined with talk therapy was less depressed than another group that did not read self-help literature.

7. Reading helps people become more empathetic. Spending time exploring an author's imagination helps people understand other people’s points of view and problems. Researchers in the Netherlands performed experiments showing that people who were "emotionally transported" by a work of fiction experienced boosts in empathy.

8. Reading can develop and improve a good self-image. Poor readers or non-readers often have low opinions of themselves and their abilities. Reading helps people understand their own strength and abilities, hence growing better self-images.

So next time you feel remorse when you’ve spent all day reading a new book, just remember these eight reasons--and then your guilt should vanish. Getting swept away by a compelling story line or character in a wonderful book is not only entertaining but also is actually good for you.

Which of these reasons resonates most with you? From the list above, I picked two favorites. I’ll tell you mine if you’ll tell me yours! How about it?


Kay Kendall is a long-time fan of historical novels and writes atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit and turbulence of the sixties. She is a reformed PR executive who lives in Texas with her husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to her bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she's a Bob Dylan buff too. RAINY DAY WOMEN published on July 7--the second in her Austin Starr Mystery series. The audio-book will debut soon.

1 comment:

  1. I knew that reading kept your mind sharp and I must admit that with so much social media around, I've become lazy and have not been reading as much as I used to. So that's a reminder to make a bigger effort to read. And I liked the one about reading being relaxing and that may help me sleep better at night. I've also had many "aha" moments when reading fiction and have solved problems that way. Really enjoyed this post!