Don’t you just love that peace and tranquility that is often absent from our busy lives? Well, how about finding that soft chair in a quiet place and indulge in a favorite novel! There has been new research published in the journal Social Science & Medicine that revealed book readers live an average of two years longer than non-readers. Those who read up to 3.5 hours a week have a 17% lower risk of dying over the next 12 years. Those that read more than the 3.5 hours a week have a 23% lower risk of dying prematurely, so in the end just 30 minutes a day may offer a major health advantage. Even after factoring in influences such as age, race, gender, education level, income, health, employment and more, this was still true.
David Lewis, cognitive neuropsychologist from the University of Sussex in England revealed that reading is a powerful form of stress relief. There were volunteers that had their stress levels and heart rates increased and then they tried a variety of stress-reduction methods to relax. Of all the other stress reduction techniques, reading out shined the others. Even music, taking a walk or having a cup of tea didn’t exceed reading.
Reading distracts your mind from the everyday worries and anxiety, your muscles tend to relax and this leads to improvements in brain function. Reading literary fiction was shown to enhance a skill known as theory of mind, which is the ability to understand others’ mental states and show increased empathy. A 2015 study was presented at the meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies that revealed what happens when you read to a child. Reading to children from an early age activated brain areas including the occipital lobes, linked to visual imagery, and the parietal lobes, linked to understand the meaning of language. Brain scans were used in this study.
Additional benefits of reading aloud to children are:
- Reading aloud is the single most important activity leading to language development
- Builds motivation, curiosity and memory
- Helps children cope during times of stress or tragedy
- Exposes children to story and print knowledge as well as rare words and ideas not often found in day-to-day conversation or screen time
- Helps children practice listening
There are other benefits beyond childhood and well into adulthood and beyond from reading. Nearly 300 people in a study engaged in mentally stimulating activities such as reading, and had slower memory decline than those who didn’t. It seemed to be particularly beneficial when they read fiction books. The reader is so engrossed in a fiction novel they become emotionally transported into the story and that leads to higher empathy in the reader.
Be sure to pick that quiet place where you have no disturbances and can become mentally and physically involved in the novel. Let it take you away to a place of peacefulness and tranquility.
This may be an indulgent pleasure that you feel you don’t have time for, but don’t feel guilty for relaxing with a good book. Give your body and mind much needed time to recharge and regroup while leaving all those ordinary responsibilities behind. I love reading because it takes me away from the humdrum of everyday problems and responsibilities. Try it– you’ll love it! Carve a piece of the day out for yourself.
-Dr Fredda Branyon