A regular reader of this column asked me, “I spend a lot of time reading, then I feel guilty because I’m wasting time. ….”
Reading is many things, but it is never a waste of time! Here are the top benefits of reading.
1. Reducing stress. We live in stressful times, when the complicated demands of work, family, and personal health can be great, and the news of the larger world can be distressing. Reading something engrossing and enjoyable lets you lose yourself in another world. This helps you relax physically and mentally, which is something we all need.
2. Improving memory. Studies have shown that staying mentally stimulated can slow the progress of age-related memory loss. Just like our muscles, our brains need stimulation to keep them strong and healthy. Reading is exercise for our brains.
3. Building empathy. Studies have shown that people who read have more empathy than people who don’t read. That shouldn’t surprise us, since when we read, we enter other people’s lives, their concerns, their motivations. We think about life from another person’s point of view – the very definition of empathy. Building empathy helps us accept and care about other people, something our world could use more of.
4. Gaining knowledge. All reading, whether fact of fiction, helps us learn about the world. The more we know, the more prepared we are to face the many challenges that life throws at us.
5. Improving focus and concentration. In a time of information overload and the pressures of multi-tasking, many of us find it difficult to focus and concentrate. Reading helps focus your attention. If you find it difficult to focus on a book, try reading for a short period of time – even 5 or 10 minutes. Even that small period of concentration will help calm and re-focus your mind. If you gradually expand the time you spend reading in one sitting, you’l probably find your focus improves in other areas of your life, too.
6. Improving vocabulary. The more you read, the more words you are exposed to. Without your realizing it, these words will become part of your vocabulary. Being more articulate and better able to express our thoughts are very useful skills.
7. Sharpening analytical thinking. Since reading exercises your brain, it increases our ability to analyze issues and problems. Combined with an enhanced ability to understand other people’s points of view, this is a winning combination in facing many of life’s challenges.
8. Improving writing skills. Being exposed to good writing helps us write better. These days, the ability to express oneself in writing is not an extra, it’s an essential skill. People who read are better equipped for this.
9. Combatting insomnia. Since reading helps us de-stress and relaxes our minds, it can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Many readers have a habit of reading before bed, for this very reason.
10. Reading is free entertainment. When money is tight and budgets are limited – as they always are – knowing how to enjoy ourselves without spending money is important. Fortunately, two of the best ways to relax and enjoy ourselves are free: walking and reading. Both of these are important habits to cultivate – for your health, and just for fun.