I am always keen to hear about the health benefits of something I actually enjoy doing. Reading a book is good for your health. It has been found that reading can reduce stress, slow your heart rate, increase creativity, decrease your likelihood of suffering dementia and make you happier.
When we read, the body can relax allowing muscle tension to ease. Some people prefer the escapism of fiction while others benefit from self help literature. Reading a novel involves the active engagement of the imagination, unlike a movie, and is more than just a distraction from the pressures of life. Time spent reading a book can benefit your health by
• Reducing stress
• Slowing the heart rate
• Improving mood
• Increasing creativity
• Encouraging empathy
Studies have found reading for even a short time can decrease stress by two thirds. Reading is more effective at reducing stress than several other activities people engage in when they want to calm down. Recent research has shown reading is
• over 60% more effective than listening to music
• 100% more effective than having a cup of tea
• 300% more effective than walking
• 700% better than playing video games.
Reading self help books can help those who suffer from some mood disorders. Reading a funny book will give you the benefits of laughing. When you laugh the brain gets extra blood and this helps memory. Reading humour encourages you to see the funny side of things.
When you read books about a hobby this will increase your creativity. Reading a novel with a complex plot also boosts creativity.
If you relate to the characters in a novel, your empathy will be promoted. The author is likely to show thoughts and reactions of the characters which you may not be aware of when you are dealing with people in real life. When you watch a movie you do not know what the characters are thinking and feeling. After relating to the characters in a book you may be more understanding of people in the real world.
Reading increases memory by creating new brain pathways and strengthening existing connections. This assists short term memory. Short term memory loss is one of the symptoms of dementia so strengthening your short term memory can help prevent dementia.
Some researchers feel reading on a screen is as beneficial as reading a book. Others say the pattern of eye movements is different in the two forms of reading and book reading is more beneficial. One school of thought claims people need to read for at least 30 to 45 minutes to allow themselves to be fully immersed. Some feel it is more relaxing to read slowly and that one can absorb more this way.
I enjoy reading and am glad it has health benefits. Arthur Schopenhauer, a German philosopher and author showed he recognised the stress reducing benefit of reading when he said, ‘I've never known any trouble than an hour's reading didn't assuage.'