Reading: A Staple of a Well Balanced Life

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Having had my nose in a book all of my life, I know firsthand the results of a life in love with literature. Bringing escape, education, and wonder, there is something about tuning in to someone else’s words that can’t be found on social media or the internet. It is, I must admit, much easier to be drawn in by the pull of content catered to short attention spans when you just don’t find books interesting. Though I look upon books endearingly and believe that you just haven’t found the right one yet, here are some ways reading improves our overall quality of life that might convince you skeptics out there to pick up a novel!

Reading improves the connectivity of different areas of the brain

During a study in which brain activity was monitored in readers over a period of nine days, there was increased activity in the somatosensory cortex, “the part of the brain that responds to physical sensations like movement and pain.” Opening a book can quite literally improve the connectivity of our brain’s intricate networks! 

Reading increases your vocabulary

The more you read and expose yourself to unfamiliar words in new contexts, the more your vocabulary and comfortability with new definitions will grow! For breaking into the world of work, taking tests, or just communicating, improving your hold on vocabulary is a sure way to impress others and better your mastery of language. 

Reading increases our ability to empathize

Humans are social creatures, which means that our entire lives revolve around our ability to interact and work with others. Mirror neurons, which fire in our brain when watching others and ourselves in action, are the source of our brain’s ability to understand others through empathy. In a study done in which some participants read literary fiction and others non-fiction, “those that read the literary fiction proved to have the most empathetic response” in subsequent testing. 

Reading can protect your brain from dementia

In a study that tested the elderly on reading, life events, and evidence of dementia in the brain, it was shown that participants who were more book savvy struggled less with memory issues over a six-year period. The study also noted that “remaining an avid reader into old age reduced memory decline by more than 30%, compared to engaging in other forms of mental activity.” Reading isn’t a foolproof cure for dementia by any means, but it does seem to help engage the mind in a way that keeps it stronger for longer. 

The gift of reading is one that keeps giving long after we close the cover. It is clear that books improve our quality of life in ways we might not even know yet—which I hope inspires you to finish that book you left on your shelf!