5 Reasons Why Reading Is Important

You probably already know that reading is pretty important. But can you actually say why? If you’re having trouble coming up with more than three solid reasons, you’re hardly alone.

According to a 2019 article published by Pew Research Center, 27% of adults said they hadn’t read a book in the past year, up from 19% in 2011. One of the chief factors behind this worrying statistic is a lack of information on the importance of regular reading. 

In this comprehensive guide, we explore why reading should be a crucial part of your daily routine. Read on to discover the five key reasons for reading every day:

  • It’s a great exercise for the brain
  • It broadens your vocabulary
  • It reduces the likelihood of age-related cognitive decline
  • It improves overall mental health
  • It prepares you for a good night’s sleep

1. Exercise Your Mind

Have you ever heard the old saying, “The mind is a muscle”? Obviously, that isn’t true.

However, there are real similarities between how the two work. Usually, when you work out, you subject your muscles to different kinds of loads. This activity causes them to grow and become much more powerful than before. Much in the same way, regular reading is the exercise your brain needs to grow stronger.

Beyond merely enabling you to learn new facts, reading frequently actually changes your mind quite literally. What’s more, a growing number of studies suggest that this heightened mental sharpness has both short and long-term benefits.

In 2013, the National Institutes of Health conducted a study to investigate the short and long-term impact of a novel on brain activity. Using functional MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans, the researchers discovered that increased brain connectivity lasted for up to 9 days after reading the novel “Pompeii.”

Since reading engages complex networks and signals within the brain, these networks become more developed the more you read. This effect is most prominent in the area of the brain that reacts to physical sensations.

2. Expand Your Vocabulary

When reading, it’s common to come across a few words you’ve never heard before. Naturally, you’d have to look them up either in the dictionary or using Google to find their meanings. But is there more to learning new words than simply satisfying your curiosity?

Perhaps you’re familiar with the Biblical verse Matthew 13:12, “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken away from them.”

Interestingly, scientists found inspiration from this verse to coin the term “Matthew Effect.” In short, this phrase summarizes the idea that the rate of vocabulary growth relies heavily on one’s reading level. Individuals who are above average readers are likely to experience greater vocabulary growth rates compared to average readers.

As these differences accumulate over time, the Matthew Effect plays a crucial role in determining one’s overall life success. This includes everything from college admissions, scores on standardized tests, job opportunities, and much more.

In fact, studies dating back to the 1930s suggest that a person’s vocabulary is one of the best predictors of their long-term occupational success. Having an expansive vocabulary improves your ability to communicate effectively which is a highly desirable “soft skill” for many employers.

3. Prevent Age-Related Cognitive Diseases

Constantly stimulating your brain through regular reading helps to prevent various age-related cognitive diseases including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). According to PNAS, patients with Alzheimer’s typically have less stimulating activities in midlife compared to their healthy counterparts.

The study also revealed that while educational and occupational achievements are protective against AD, other intellectual activities also prevent its development. The healthy individuals spent more time on various stimulating activities such as reading from early to middle adulthood.

Although reading doesn’t completely prevent cognitive decline, seniors who read and solve math problems daily can retain and even improve their memory and cognitive functions. That being said, it’s never too early or too late to start reading no matter how old you are.

According to a study by the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s, reading books can help maintain memory and thinking regardless of an individual’s age. Frequent readers also have a lower chance of developing the lesions and plaques typically found in the brains of people with dementia.

4. Give Yourself a Mental Boost

Throughout human history, books have been used by countless people as a source of therapeutic relief. Simply put, the joy of reading can help lessen the feelings of isolation that are part of many people’s lives.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a fiction novel, a newspaper or magazine article, a self-help book, a comic, or religious text. Just about anything you enjoy reading can considerably improve your overall mental health.

Research done in the UK has found that regular readers enjoy higher levels of self-esteem and empathy. Simultaneously, people who dedicated more of their time to reading were notably better at coping with stressful scenarios. Of the total respondents, those who read for 30 minutes a week were 20% more likely to be satisfied with their lives.

And although depression has a broad range of causes, reading can help stave off some of its main symptoms. In the UK study, regular readers were 21% less likely to experience feelings associated with depression such as loneliness and isolation.

In general, the study reported numerous social, emotional, and psychological benefits of regular reading for pleasure to adults.

5. Get More Restful Sleep

According to the Sleep Foundation, a third of Americans aren’t getting a good night’s rest due to a lack of a proper bedtime routine. If you’re part of that statistic, reading a good book before bed can help you get better sleep regularly.

While bedtime routines are bound to vary from person to person, reading immediately before you sleep can relax you significantly. According to a study, reading is more effective at lowering stress than listening to music or drinking a warm cup of tea.

Interestingly, although reading stimulates the brain, it can also make you sleepy as it engages several eye muscles simultaneously. Besides scanning rapidly from left to right, your eyes also need to focus on the text so you don’t get lost. Over time, these movements ultimately result in your eyes closing entirely.

By lowering your stress levels and working out your eye muscles, reading in bed creates the ideal conditions for restful sleep. Plus, you’ll be doing it in a place your brain already associates with sleeping.

In Conclusion

Despite its numerous benefits, reading remains an uncommon practice among most adults in the US. For the most part, this trend may be traced back to a lack of information on the significance of developing regular reading habits. 

Some of the benefits of reading frequently include greater mental sharpness, lower probability of age-related cognitive decline, a broadened vocabulary, improved overall mental health, and better sleep.

Regardless of your age, integrating reading into your day-to-day activities can have a huge positive impact on your life.

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