Monday, 30 November 2015

This is an article by Helen Crofter!

Chilled, Smart, And Empathetic – The Ways In Which Reading Is Good For You

Everyone who comes to this blog is already no doubt aware of the joys inherent in reading – but did you know that it’s actually very good for you as well? Grabbing a book and losing yourself in the text brings with it a whole host of surprising health benefits. Not only this, but it’s thought that reading fiction can even help your social life and perhaps make you a better person! If you’re interested in the ways in which reading can improve your health and your life, here are just a few examples…

Reading Reduces Your Dementia Risk

Everyone’s brain will naturally start to show signs of wear and tear as they get older, but studies show that those who read regularly are likely to be sharper into old age than those who do not. Reading provides your brain with a light workout, exercising not only your ability to understand the text, but also your imagination and ability to make connections across a broad spectrum of scenarios. Indeed, those who do not engage in brain-workouts of this kind experience cognitive decline at a rate 48% faster than bookworms when they enter old age! It’s even been suggested that reading could help protect the brain against Alzheimers – although more work needs to be done to confirm this scientifically.

Reading Helps Your Mental Health

Reading not only chills you out, de-stresses you, and makes you less vulnerable to things like depression, it can also help with things like substance abuse and eating disorders. Many substance abusers turn to addictive substances as a means of ‘escape’ from their lives and themselves. Reading a good book provides the same kind of ‘escape’, but the other effects of reading are positive rather than negative, making it an excellent substitute for drink and/or drugs. Those in danger of addictive disorders can often be helped enormously by the escape found within books. In the same vein, people with eating-based anxieties and issues can often find solace, support, and escape from the intrusive thought-cycles with which they suffer within the pages of a good book. Reading gives the brain something else to concentrate on other than neurotic preoccupations, and the less it can focus on anxieties etc, the weaker those anxieties will get. As a means of ‘escape’, reading is thus incredibly valuable to suffering individuals.

Reading Helps You To Sleep

By now we’re probably all aware that staring at a backlit screen before bed wreaks havoc with our circadian rhythms, so perhaps it’s best to put the Kindle down and pick up a paperback if you want to get the benefits of this one – but assuming that you’re not reading from an electronic device, plenty of sleep experts recommend taking in a few chapters before sleep. Not only does reading de-stress you, it can also help the brain to transition to a ‘deeper’, more dreamlike mode from which sleep is easier to access. It also removes the brain’s focus from the problems of the day, meaning that sleep will not only come more easily but will be more restful and less interrupted by anxieties. As a good sleeping pattern is absolutely essential for good overall health, the benefits of this one cannot be overstated!

Reading Makes You A Better Person

Reading – well, reading fiction – has been proven to make readers more empathetic and considerate of the emotions of others than they otherwise may have been. A study in New York discovered that those who read fiction by the likes of Charles Dickens and Tea Obreht were more able than those who did not to identify the emotions that others were feeling. It is thought that the readers were able to do this because they had been ‘trained’ by reading to identify with the emotions of fictional characters. Furthermore, having a literary ‘insight’ into the mind of a fictional character makes one generally more aware of other people’s though processes (and the ways in which they may differ from one’s own), and more able to ‘read’ those thought processes in the real world. All of which makes one generally better at social interaction, which in turn is incredibly good for one’s social life, which in turn has positive impacts upon one’s health in general. 

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