The five health benefits of reading

Reading is an activity that has multiple health benefits, some of which are unexpected. Whether it’s an adventure novel, a detective story, poetry, an autobiography, or a humorous story, here are 5 reasons why you should indulge in a good book more.

fight stress

First of all, it is a good way to fight stress and forget about the little daily life hassles. And to do that, you don’t have to read a lot. Researchers from the University of Sussex in Britain have proven that six minutes of reading is enough to relax and relieve muscle tension.

After a few pages, the scientists found that the heart rate drops, putting the reader in a state of calm and serenity. More precisely, this activity will reduce the stress level by 68%. Thus, it will be more effective than other relaxation methods such as walking, listening to music, or even having a hot drink.

activates the brain

There is nothing like reading regularly to stimulate your cognitive functions. Reading helps to discover new words, improves concentration and writing level, develops imagination and preserves memory. And for good reason, the brain must retain several pieces of information, such as plot, context, or even characters, their pasts, connections, and intentions.

This therefore promotes the creation of new synapses (the connections between neurons), and thus the ability to retain information. Several studies have shown that reading helps prevent the onset of some neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

prolong life

Researchers at Yale University in the US have also shown that reading extends life. In fact, according to their study, published in the Journal of Social Science & Medicine, people who read 30 minutes a day had a 17% lower risk of death in the next 12 years. This number rises to 23% for people who read more than 3½ hours per week.

On average, avid readers earn two years more than non-readers. However, this feature is valid provided that you don’t just read the news. The authors point out that “reading novels offers more benefit than reading newspapers or magazines.”

Promotes sleep

Another benefit: prepares the body for sleep and makes it easier to fall asleep. By getting in the habit of reading a few pages every night before we go to bed, we send a signal to our bodies, telling it it’s time to fall into the arms of Morpheus. Not to mention that the practice of reading, as described above, calms anxiety.

Note that we are talking here about paper books, not digital, on tablets or smartphones, electronic devices that emit blue light. But this excites the retina, slows down the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, and makes the body think it’s daytime. Thus, this phenomenon disrupts the biological clock and delays the stage of sleep onset.

empathy development

Finally, even if this activity is done alone, it allows you to develop your altruistic side. When we read a book, more specifically a fictional story, we identify with the characters. And it is precisely this identification that will help improve our social skills, including empathy. This helps us to put ourselves more easily in the shoes of others, and thus better understand them.

According to two American researchers, David Comer-Kidd and Emmanuel Castano, social psychologists at the New School for Social Research in New York, reading novels places the reader “into complex, even unfamiliar social contexts, which places them in new realities of existence.”

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