How losing yourself in a good book can boost your overall well-being.
READING IS ESSENTIAL IN EVERYDAY LIFE – we use it to communicate via email or text message, pay bills and even navigate traffic. But did you know that reading for personal enjoyment and learning is not only good (and low-cost!) entertainment, but can also bring a whole host of other benefits? Here are some ways reading may positively impact your life.
Helps sharpen the mind
Regardless of age, the more the brain is exposed to, the more it can adapt, learn and remember. Research shows that neurons in the brain have the ability to change structurally in response to new experiences,1 and reading ranks as a top strategy for continued and ongoing improvement in knowledge, vocabulary and intelligence. Additionally, keeping your brain active engages new or little-used mental pathways, potentially reducing the risk of cognitive decline. In fact, a recent study found individuals who frequently participated in intellectual pastimes, such as reading, over the course of their lifetimes had an approximately 32 per cent slower late-life cognitive decline than those who engaged in these activities less often.2
Helps reduce stress and improve well-being
With today’s constant connectivity and on-the-go lifestyles, finding effective ways to relieve stress is highly important. Enter reading. A summary report from Canada’s National Reading Campaign notes that among traditional relaxation strategies, reading ranks number one, reducing stress levels by 68 per cent. What’s more, it only takes six minutes of reading to effectively slow the heart rate and ease tension in muscles.3 Reading is linked to other positive physical and social effects. Research has found that book readers are 28 per cent more likely than non-readers to report very good or excellent health, and 15 per cent more likely to report a very strong satisfaction with life.4
Additional social benefits exist for fiction lovers, as there’s evidence that reading fiction helps to promote empathy, boost self-esteem and improve social skills. Identifying with the emotions of a novel’s characters and following their relationships with other characters activate the same areas of the brain we use when experiencing real-life issues.5
Helps children succeed in life
Studies show that parents who read to their children can positively influence how much their kids like to read. That’s important, because reading for fun enhances a child’s comprehension, vocabulary and attention span, and increases children’s confidence as readers and their motivation to read throughout their lives.6
Reading levels among youth are also a key indicator of future success in both education and life. A report by Statistics Canada found those in the top reading level at age 15 were 20 times more likely to attend university than those in lower reading levels.7 Another study indicates that children with higher reading skills went on to have higher incomes and more professional roles in adulthood.8 So, pop in to your local library or bookstore and see what catches your interest. You might be pleasantly surprised to discover a page-turner that you just can’t put down – plus a rewarding endeavour that is oh so good for you!
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