11 Benefits of reading

From hatred to a love affair [with books]! Read my surprising story, plus 11 benefits I’ve discovered about reading.

My story

I hated reading with a passion and avoided it at all costs growing up. My English teacher would laugh out loud if he knew I was an advocate for reading these days. Still, he would also be delighted that I had finally come to appreciate the joy and benefits of reading that he had so often tried to explain to me during my teenage years. He [Mr. Vorwerk] repeatedly tried to coax and encourage me to read in my spare time, but I had no interest in books, and such was just a waste of his and my time.

I was elated

When it came to my English O’ Level, I failed the examination with flying colours! Not surprising considering my spelling, grammar, and English literacy was so under-developed at this time. However, five years after leaving school, I enrolled in an English O’ Level course and received the top grade…. an “A” no less! I was elated.

So what happened in-between times?

The difference

I became a Christian and developed a deep hunger to read the Bible. Considering the Bible contains a compendium of 66 books, this was equivalent of reading a small library!  Additionally, I read lots of Christian literature, e.g. biographies, study reference books, theology books, etc as well. All this reading helped improve my grammar and vocabulary tremendously, so I smashed my English exam second time around! 

Books of the Bible – photo by Unknown

Why I champion reading

I encourage others to read books…. all kinds of books because there are so many positive benefits to both our health and well-being by doing so.

11 benefits of reading

People reading – photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

1. Sharpens your mind and stimulates your brain, especially the part of the brain responsible for concentration and critical analysis. Therefore, keeping our brains active (whether by reading or other means) helps keep us mentally sharp and prevents us from becoming sluggish in our thinking and decision-making.

2. Reduces stress. The act of reading and focusing on a story helps to relieve your mind from everyday pressures and worries. It may not remove your concerns entirely, but it does give you a place to go to forget your cares temporarily.

Photo: Benefits of reading for 6 minutes poster by Unknown

A 2009 study conducted by the University of Exeter found that reading was even more effective and quicker at reducing stress than taking a walk, drinking a cup of tea and listening to music.

Reading to reduce stress – photo by Samson Katt on Pexels.com

In fact, the researchers found that just six minutes of reading could be enough to reduce stress levels by up to two thirds. [1]

3. Improves memory and focus because it stimulates the brain – particularly the part that helps with memory and attention. There is some evidence that mental stimulation is one factor that can delay the onset of dementia, and reading is among the activities that can help keep the brain active. Reading is far from a passive pastime. When we read, we create mental simulations of the activities, sights and sounds of scenes in a story, blending these with our own memories and experiences, which stimulates the neural pathways. [2]

Reading improves vocabulary – photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com

4. Improves vocabulary. When reading books, you might come across a few words you don’t quite understand or recognise. Your lack of understanding may lead you to look up the word(s) in a dictionary (or on the Internet) to discover their definition.

After several days of regular reading and looking up new words, your vocabulary will begin to expand, and your language skills will improve. You will fill your brain with a new vocabulary that you might never have learnt without reading books—a fact proven by the University Of Oregon. [3]

5. Improves our understanding of words in their correct context. People often use simple words like “to, two, or too” and “there, they’re and their” in the wrong context. Reading helps to differentiate such words and use them in their correct context.

6. Improves our writing skills. Have you ever come across a work email or a business letter (from an adult – not a kid) with numerous spelling or grammatical errors? I know I have. Poor spelling and grammatical errors look so unprofessional and instantly convey a bad impression to others. Reading helps to combat such and improves your writing skills tremendously.

7. Contributes to quality sleep by helping you relax, de-stress and fall into a peaceful sleep. As any parent or parenting expert will tell you, establishing a relaxing bedtime routine is key to helping little ones develop good sleep habits. But that tried-and-tested formula of ‘bottle, bath and bedtime story’ doesn’t just apply to children. A nightly ritual of a warm (caffeine-free) drink, relaxing bath and a few minutes of reading in bed can act as a cue to your body and mind that it’s time to go to sleep. [4]

Bedtime relaxation – photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

8. Stimulates the imagination.  Reading can “take you someplace to go when you have to stay where you are,” which makes it a perfect solution to help relieve boredom during lockdown.

“Reading takes you someplace to go when you have to stay where you are.”

— Mason Cooley

9. Opens a window to the world. Whilst lockdown prevents us going places, it doesn’t prevent us visiting different parts of the world via books.

When you read you become aware of other cultures, peoples, nations, ideologies, etc. You realize how amazingly diverse the world is and how less you truly know about it. Reading is like travelling but better because it lets you traverse the globe without moving an inch from your cozy, comfy bed wrapped in a warm blanket and sipping on hot chocolate! [5]

10. Provides opportunities to cultivate friendships in the form of Book Clubs.

Book clubs or discussion groups are fun places to meet and make new friends with similar tastes and interests in books. Book clubs may meet in private homes, libraries, bookstores, online forums, pubs, cafés, restaurants, etc.

11. Reading provides plenty of topics for conversation. Whether at dinner parties, on a first date, in a group with your friends, at school, or something other—information you have gleaned from reading a good book can help create interesting conversation or even help break the ice in awkward situations.

Conclusion

Reading is a brilliant pastime. It doesn’t cost much and can enrich our lives in so many different ways. Do you have a story to tell re how reading has improved your life? Please feel free to leave a comment in the notes below. I’d love to hear from you.

Next week: Hygge: what exactly is it?


Sources

1 The Telegraph

2 BBC website: “Why reading is good for me: Hidden health benefits”

3 University of Oregon

4 Huffington Post: “Why reading before bed could improve your sleep

5 lisden.com


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