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Reading books benefits both your physical and mental health, and those benefits can last a lifetime. Here’s a list of the top 10 ways that reading books can improve your mental and physical health. 

  1. Reading makes your brain stronger. Using MRI scans, researchers have found that reading involves a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain. As your reading ability matures, those networks also get stronger and more sophisticated. Researchers used functional MRI scans to measure the effect of reading a novel on the brain. Study participants read the novel “Pompeii” over a period of 9 days. As tension built in the story, more and more areas of the brain lit up with activity. Brain scans showed that throughout the reading period and for days afterward, brain connectivity increased, strengthening “brain power”

  2. Reading to your children. Reading at home boosts school performance later on in life. It also increases vocabulary, raises self-esteem, builds good communication skills, and strengthens the prediction engine that is the human brain.

  3. Reading increases emotional intelligence.  Research has shown that people who read literary fiction — stories that explore the inner lives of characters — show a heightened ability to understand the feelings and beliefs of others. Researchers call this ability the “theory of mind,” a set of skills essential for building, navigating, and maintaining social relationships.

  4. Researchers have found that students who read books regularly, beginning at a young age, gradually develop large vocabularies. And vocabulary size can influence many areas of your life, from scores on standardized tests to college admissions and job opportunities.

  5. Potentially helps to delay the onset of Alzheimers. The National Institute on Aging recommends reading books and magazines as a way of keeping your mind engaged as you grow older. Although research hasn’t proven conclusively that reading books prevents diseases like Alzheimer’s, studies show that seniors who read and solve math problems every day maintain and improve their cognitive functioning.

  6. Relieves Stress. In 2009, a group of researchers measured the effects of yoga, humor, and reading on the stress levels of students in demanding study program in the United States. The study found that 30 minutes of reading lowered blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of psychological distress just as effectively as yoga and humor did!

  7. Helps you sleep. Many people struggle with sleep, potentially due to exposure to light before bed. Reading a paperback with a low/reading light, is a well known method for allowing the brain to wind down and to get a good night's sleep. 7-9 hours of sleep is the ideal sleep duration and less than 6 hours is consistently shown to decrease life expectancy. 

  8. Help with depression and low mood. Reading fiction can allow you to temporarily escape your own world and become swept up in the imagined experiences of the characters. And nonfiction self-help books can teach you strategies that may help you manage symptoms.

  9. That’s why the United Kingdom’s National Health Service has begun Reading Well, a Books on Prescription program, where medical experts prescribe self-help books curated by medical experts specifically for certain conditions.

  10. Reading may help you live longer. A long-term health and retirement study followed a cohort of 3,635 adult participants for a period of 12 years, finding that those who read books survived around 2 years longer than those who either didn’t read or who read magazines.

Are you convinced of the benefits of reading? Why not message me (@askharbir on IG) the title of your favorite books and I’ll compile a list in a future article. 

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