What is the benefit of reading books? Actually a lot

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Love to curl up on the sofa with a good book ? You are not alone.

According to Gallup survey, published in 2022, in 2021 Americans read about 12 books a year, so about one a month. The figure is the lowest since Gallup began tracking Americans’ reading habits in 1990.

Whether the decline in book reading is the result of a busy lifestyle or viewing temptations the latest series on TV, it’s time to get back to the books.

If the latest bestseller falls dust on your nightstand, knowing the benefits of reading can be just the motivation to pick it up again.

Of course, you can also join TODAY’s very own book club band leader, Jenna Bush Hager, in a new initiative “ Sweating With Jenna ” to get back on track, because as readers already know, there’s nothing quite like settling in with a great book. Designed to build or strengthen a reading habit, Streaking With Jenna encourages people to follow their reading streak into 2023.

“It’s like a sanctuary,” Marianne Wolff, UCLA professor-in-residence and director of the Center for Dyslexia, Diverse Learners, and Social Justice, tells TODAY.com.

“I have 20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes at night after Netflix or whatever I’ve done between thousands of emails,” Wolff explains of her reading habit.

“And it helps me focus, it helps me remind myself of the priorities for the day before, the day after, and that very moment.”

From increased vocabulary and conversational skills to better sleep and a longer life, here are 10 scientific and psychological benefits of reading that will inspire you to get back into the habit.

1) Reading can prolong your life

Good news, bookworms: reading books may be part of the key to a long life.

Research of 2016 published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, found that reading books can reduce mortality by 20%.

According to the researchers, “any level of book reading confers a significantly greater survival advantage,” especially for adults 65 and older who “redirect leisure time” from watching TV to reading books.

The study also found that reading alone is not enough—reading itself books does matter The authors noted that books contributed to a “survival advantage that was significantly greater than that observed with reading newspapers or magazines.”

2) Encourages empathy

Reading books can help us become more compassionate, empathetic people.

“We have more opportunities to deepen our understanding, our insights, our sense of our own best thoughts,” Wolff explains. “It gives us more empathy, perspective — taking other people’s points of view, thoughts and feelings into account.”

And there’s science to back it up.

IN 2013 study published in Science, researchers found that fiction, in particular, helps readers better understand what other people think and feel, and increases their ability to empathize.

3) Helps reduce cognitive decline

Like the rest of your body, your brain needs exercise to help it function at its best. Reading books is one way to keep your mind sharp.

“A variety of activities, including reading, that are perceived as cognitive, are clearly associated with better brain health,” Jonathan King, Ph.D., senior research advisor in the Division of Behavioral and Social Research at the National Institute on Aging, tells TODAY. com.

Although the jury is still out on whether reading can prevent dementia, research assumes that older people who read more than those who don’t seem to have a lower risk of cognitive decline.

At least King says that older adults who read more often generally have “a larger vocabulary than younger adults because of all the reading experience they’ve had,” which helps them gain “crystallized knowledge,” or what people have read about that they can use in your everyday life.

4) Reduces stress

American Psychological Association found in their 2022 Annual Stress in America Studythat a quarter of American adults feel they are “too stressed to work.”

High levels of stress are associated with a variety of physical and mental health problems, making stress management essential to personal health.

Participating in stress-relieving activities like reading books is an easy way to help lower cortisol levels.

“Reading has been linked to meditation in terms of how our brain processes our environment and our physiological state,”Zoe ShawPsy.D., a licensed psychotherapist and author of The Year of Self-Care: Daily Practices and Inspiration for Self-Care, tells TODAY.com.

“If you’re sitting in a chair or lying in bed and concentrating on reading, your body can actually go into a kind of meditative state,” says Shaw. “So you can get some of the benefits of meditation by reading.”

Research confirms that including research found that 30 minutes of reading had the same ability to reduce stress as 30 minutes of yoga.

5) Improves critical thinking

Can reading make you smarter? In short, yes. Of course, it’s complicated, and many things affect a person’s general knowledge and intelligence.

1998 study concluded that reading “pays significant dividends for everyone.”

In the study, those who were more “voracious” readers, regardless of their general ability, were better able to answer a variety of practical questions, such as who their US senators were and how many teaspoons are equal to one tablespoon, even though they didn’t have to. understands those topics.

Reading can also improve critical thinking skills, Wolf tells TODAY.com.

“One of the great advantages lies not only in understanding a person; it’s in her ability to participate in a democracy with a critical, empathetic mind,” she says.

6) Promotes self-care

If you’ve ever gotten lost in a book, you can attest to this: reading a book just makes you happy. Fun is as much a benefit of reading as all these positive psychological and scientific benefits.

Shaw says that while they’re engrossing in their own way, TV, movies and scrolling through social media don’t offer the same level of escapism and peace as reading a book.

“Reading on computers or devices doesn’t relax our bodies as much,” Shaw says, explaining that when you read a book, your brain conjures up images to accompany what you’re reading, engaging your creative mind while helping you relax. . at the same time.

“We gain knowledge and, to some extent, take care of ourselves because we expand our understanding of the world, of ourselves — and that’s self-care,” she continues.

7) Improves communication skills

According to 2015 studyabove-average readers had a much faster rate of vocabulary growth than average readers.

“We know that the best way to help children learn to write, expand their vocabulary and improve their overall academic performance is by reading to them,” says Shaw.

“It also works for us as adults. Our vocabulary increases, our conversation skills improve,” she says. “Moreover, we write better when we read more.”

8) Improves sleep

Does your sleep routine include a few minutes (or hours) of screen time?

If so, it most likely is scrolling through Instagram or checking email negatively affects your ability to sleep.

2020 research published in Nature and Science of Sleep, found that using a mobile device for at least 30 minutes after turning off the lights leads to poorer sleep quality, daytime sleepiness, and other sleep disorders.

However, reading a book before bed has the exact opposite effect.

“Reading can improve sleep,” says Shaw. “It activates the frontal lobe, the limbic system, and creates a relaxing cascade in our body.”

In 2021 The researchers studied reading and sleeping patterns and found that, in general, reading a book in bed before bed led to participants experiencing improved sleep quality.

“It can help calm you down and get you into that place much better than other activities,” says Shaw.

9) Promotes communication

Disagreements have grown in recent years, leading to what many see as a disconnect between people and a decline in community.

While not every problem can obviously be solved by reading a book, picking up one can be helpful as it helps bridge the gap.

“At this moment in our society, at this tiny, intense moment in human history, we need people to communicate with each other,” Wolff tells TODAY.com.

“Not just connecting with friends and social media, but deeper forms of communication so we can understand each other, even when we’re alone,” she says.

“There is such an amazing miracle that we can understand another if we take the time to do so without getting out of our chair.”

10) Provides time to charge batteries

Time with a book is also time for you .

“Reading makes you spend time with yourself. It kind of isolates you in a healthy way,” she tells TODAY.com.

“There’s also a sense of self-soothing when reading that’s different from what we do on our devices,” Shaw says, explaining that when you use your phone or device as an escape, it’s easy to be interrupted by notifications and other distractions. .

“But usually when we decide to read a book, we take a certain space and time where it’s more convenient for us, and we just sit on the couch with the book.”

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