Many of us love to read for pleasure; there’s nothing like escaping into a good book. It’s just a matter of setting aside time in your busy life. Now you don’t have to feel guilty about time spent diving into your favorite novel: research by Yale University School of Public Health showed that adults who read for pleasure for more than 3 ½ hours per week were 23 percent less likely to die over 12 years of follow-up compared with those who did not read. Although the research was unable to determine the exact reason for this, other studies point out that reading increases the connectivity between brain cells, which could lower the risk of neurodegenerative diseases that shorten life span.
Additional studies have shown that your stress may be reduced by 68 percent after reading. While reading, your brain is engaged in the story, your muscles relax, and your heart rate slows — all contributing to a calmer you. A study by the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom also claims that reading reduces stress more than listening to music or walking.
Dr. David Lewis, a neuropsychologist at Mindlab International at Sussex, and colleagues found that participants who engaged in just 6 minutes of reading — whether a newspaper or a book — experienced a slowed heart rate and reduced muscle tension. “This is more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination, as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness,” says Dr. Lewis.
If this data is not enough for you to pull out your library card, here are three more facts to turn you into a bookworm this fall and winter:
• Reading before bedtime improves sleep. It’s much better than the alternative of being on your phone, which wreaks havoc on sleep. This is because the light reduces the production of melatonin, a hormone that tells us it’s time to sleep.
• Reading enhances emotional intelligence. Reading diverse stories exposes readers to a breadth of human experience, allowing them to essentially place themselves in the shoes of the characters they are reading about.
• Reading increases vocabulary. Even if you have quite a respectable lexis, it never hurts to be reminded of words you haven’t used lately.