Reading is something that you have probably been encouraged to do more of your entire life. By your parents, teachers, lecturers and so on. But reading doesn’t have to always be educative or intense. You don’t need to be reading Plato’s Republic to gain from the benefits of reading! So today I am going to outline some of the reasons any kind of reading is good, specifically for your mental health.
1. Escape into another world
When your reality isn’t what you would like it to be an escape can really be a welcome activity. Instead of turning to unhealthy substances reading can provide a really proactive escape for your mind. Much like being engrossed into a game, movie or Netflix series. Fictional stories provide a really vivid world full of characters, places, abilities and so much more that really capture your imagination and take your mind off of all the things that are troubling you.
The escape element is probably the biggest reason that I like to read. I think it is why I like Young Adult Fantasy genre so much. For a time I can follow the story of someone else where the possibilities are endless.
2. Reading improves our ability to empathize
A study by The South African College of Applied Psychology suggests that reading fiction improved our empathy levels. Participants were given either literary fiction or non-fiction reading material and, once done, they were given an empathy test. Those that read the literary fiction proved to have the most empathic response.
This was because, they believed, the stories in fiction simulate our everyday lives in a way that enables us to exercise our empathy for others.
3. Reading can reduce stress and anxiety
While we are reading our minds are focused on the story or content of the book we are holding. Reading helps prevent an anxiety-provoking thought in our minds and has a soothing effect on the brain. As you move ahead in the story through characters, your thoughts and inhibitions travel with you. You are focused on the book. People often say – when you have a book, you have a friend. This is because it can lessen feelings of alienation and loneliness. A reduction in these traits can help combat mental health problems.
4. Improve and maintain your memory
Reading has proven to be an extremely useful tool in the prevention of memory loss and the prevention of dementia at a later stage in life. Participating in cognitive activities, such as reading over your life time was shown to slow down memory loss when compared to people who did not take up mentally stimulating activities like reading. The same study also found that the rate of mental decline was reduced by 32% when people participated in reading, writing and other activities later on in life. While those with infrequent stimulating activity found that their decline was 48% faster than those with average activity.
5. Relaxation and tranquillity
Being in a quiet relaxing environment is really relieving especially when our everyday lives are so busy and loud. Time away from bright lights, technology, city noise and such can really benefit our mental state. Any activity that possesses meditative qualities in which the brain is fully focused on a single task is proven to reduce stress and enhance relaxation. In a study conducted by the University of Sussex, individuals who had read for merely six minutes exhibited slower heart rates, less muscle tension, and reduced stress levels.
Dr. David Lewis, the neuroscientist who conducted the study, reported that 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.”
I hope this post helps you to break down just some of the many benefits of reading for mental health. If you want to get back into reading and need a place to start you can take a look at my Books I Want To Read Master list where I have listed all of the books I want to read.
If you are already an avid reader, How does reading help to benefit your health and well-being?