General Health

Read Up: 6 Fantastic Health Benefits for Book Worms

I hear you; it’s tough to pick up a book after a long day. Many of us (myself included) would rather zone out to a sitcom marathon on Netflix and forget about our troubles. However, science pinpoints some pretty amazing benefits for those who choose to pick up a book instead.

From retaining memory to easing stress and chronic pain, here’s why you should get lost in a book…

1. Readers Live Happier Lives

Sure, we often emulate the heroes we read about in books. However, a study conducted by the Centre for Reading, Literature, and Society at the University of Liverpool, finds that reading makes us happier in real life as well.

The research was gathered in an online poll consisting of 4,164 equal groups of reading and non-reading adults. Overall, the data showed that participants who read a book for just 30-minutes per week reported greater overall life happiness, satisfaction, and social connectedness.

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2. Read to Ease Depression and Anxiety

When it comes to feelings of sadness, it turns out sticking your nose in a book can boost emotional health, says Sue Wilkinson, CEO of the U.K.-based reading charity, The Reading Agency.

In fact, research notes that individuals who read in their free time experience less depression and anxiety compared to those who don’t pick up a book. “Reading for fun [has been linked to] preventing depression and even dementia,” says Wilkinson, “compared to watching TV or scrolling through social media.”

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3. Reading Encourages Empathy and Tolerance

It’s true that books are often the gateways to far off places and experiences we never would have experienced before. And scientific research supports the fact that the act of opening our minds through reading actually shifts wiring and network connectivity within the brain.

Research collected by the Centre for Reading Research in partnership with The Reader Organization, shows that readers generally have more life experience, more respect and tolerance of other cultures and other views, and more depth of knowledge to talk about during social interaction.

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4. Rid Chronic Pain by Reading

If you typically reach for prescription medication to ease chronic pain, consider this experimental study on the positive effects of literature on pain management from Broadgreen University Hospitals, in the U.K. The study monitored a weekly, hospital-run reading group consisting of patients with severe and chronic pain who read aloud and discussed a collection of short stories, novels, and poetry.

The study concluded that participation in the group not only soothed emotional pain (i.e., isolation and depression), but also physical pain management as far as engagement in reading helped reduced the overall pain awareness.

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5. Reading Puts Things in Perspective

I admit that sometimes losing myself in a book provides temporary relief from my daily stresses and problems. However, while books can provide escapism—they can also help us gain new and clear perspective of common issues as they happen to fictional characters.

For instance, thanks to reading about the conflicts and obstacles of a favorite character in a book, reading acts like a mirror into real life, and helps us to see things in new ways and gain healthier, more open-minded perspective.

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6. Reading Prevents Mental Decline

Ongoing research from Alzheimer’s Research UK has found evidence that demanding mental activity (i.e., reading and writing) may help prevent cognitive decline.

Although the research is still inconclusive, older patients who take up mentally stimulating activities (i.e., reading) tend to score higher on memory and thinking tests. After studying donated brain tissue, scientists believe that mental activity may provide ‘‘cognitive reserve’’ that helps the brain resist damage from Alzheimer’s.

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