There’s nothing like getting lost in a good book and the feeling of not wanting to put it down. Making more time to read is always something that’s on my list of activities to prioritise.
There’s increasing research too that backs up the many benefits reading can have on our mental health and wellbeing. In a 2021 Public’s Perception survey, the BACP reported that 43% of people found reading reduced stress levels during lockdown.
Like anything new, it can be hard to get started if you’re not a natural bookworm, but setting aside 20-30-minutes to read something you enjoy daily (and uninterrupted) will work wonders for your mood. Though as little as six minutes can create a feeling of calm. It can be anything – a gripping thriller, fashion magazine, biography, a class novel. All it needs to do is capture your interest and allow your mind a space to relax daily.
This article looks at the ways our wellbeing can improve by picking up a book and finding more time to read.
Reading Reduces Stress
Reading for pleasure can help reduce stress. It’s a proven science. In fact, it’s a more beneficial activity for reducing stress levels, then walking and listening to music. You’ll actually reach the feeling of calm quicker when reading, according to research conducted by the University Of Sussex. Escaping with a good book will reduce your heart rate, which will then work to ease any muscle tension. Stress levels can be reduced by as much as 68%.
What you don’t want to do is pick a reading source that will escalate any feelings of stress or anxiety you have, like the news. Since the first lockdown, I pretty much avoid daily news at points where it can affect me negatively like just before bedtime. This is the perfect time to escape from the stressors of life in a book you enjoy.
Reading Aids Sleep
We know that screens before bed can negatively affect our sleep patterns, but most of us still find it impossible to put our smart phones down. I’d definitely recommend putting your phone away from your sleep zones when trying to unwind at the end of the day for a good 30 minutes to an hour. You don’t need to check your social media at 11pm at night. Step away from the blue light, and instead, use this time for you and your wellbeing. Make time to read and allow your mind to switch off, escape and be at peace. Reading eases the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness naturally. Your device light will only work to interfere with the sleep hormone Melatonin, which tells us when to sleep. Tell yourself that anything after 9pm, can wait until the morning. Though the earlier you can switch off the better!
Reading Promotes A Healthy Brain
There’s no getting around the fact that our brain will naturally slow down with age. Reading can help keep the mind and brain healthy. This is because by partaking in activities such as reading, we are inviting the mind to engage, this then helps slow down cognitive decline, improve memory and the ability to complete mental challenges. There have been a few studies on this and mental decline is thought to be reduced by as much as 30% by those that read regularly as adults and as they grow older.
Reading Improves Focus
What’s great in finding time to read, is that in those book moments the mind isn’t thinking about anything else. There are no mental to-do lists whizzing round in your head, no worries. It’s just you and the book and the world in which you’re escaping to. This break is brilliant for the mind because there’s focus. You’re practicing focus. Reading also increases our vocabulary and link to intelligence. There are many studies that connect those young avid readers to a more intellectual mind. Quite simply, the more we read, the more we know and the stronger our vocabulary, knowledge and verbal social skills. It provides an avenue in which we can challenge ourselves too and our current views and can help us empathise with others.
Reading Helps Us Live Longer
A study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine confirms it. Apparently, in making time to read more than three and a half hours a week, you’ll reduce mortality risk by 23% and overall life expectancy by almost two years, which is quite remarkable. Again, it’s the association between cognitive decline and reading. An active mind is a healthy one.
It’s also important to note that aside from all these great, wellbeing points, reading is simply pleasurable. A really good book is one that you cannot put down, and time seems to vanish as you become transported by the story. It’s a wonderful feeling. In the words of the admirable British writer, C.S. Lewis: “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”
So, let’s read together. What are your favourite types of books to read and what are you currently reading? I’d love to hear. If you’re struggling for inspiration, check out this brilliant list for great summer reading.
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