The benefits of reading…what’s in it for me?
I’m one of those people that started reading when I was about four, and I’ve been reading everything I could get my hands on ever since. People who love to read don’t always think about the positive benefits of reading…isn’t it something that we do just because it’s like oxygen? We can’t live without it? And for people who don’t enjoy reading, the very act itself is torture–surely nothing good could ever come of sitting on the couch all day while life goes on around you.
Unfortunately, we two–the reader and the non-reader–don’t really understand each other very well. But what if there were actual benefits to reading? What if these benefits could actually be our common ground? Maybe the person who doesn’t like to read would stop and take the time to do so if there were scientifically proven benefits to having your nose in a book. And while those of us who love to read don’t actually need an excuse to bury our noses in a book, we would love to know that there are benefits to the obsession, right?
Reading is knowledge.
No one knows everything. Some people know more than others, and some people seem to know an awful lot about an awful lot…but no one knows everything. Reading increases your knowledge. Even reading a fiction book is likely to teach you something that you didn’t know. The more you know, the better equipped you are for life’s challenges–both the little ones and the big ones. And even if you live a perfectly stress-free life, look at it this way. Boring people don’t get invited to parties much.
Reading helps your thinking processes.
Reading helps you put your analytical and critical thinking skills to good use. Whether you are trying to solve a mystery, figure out which princess the prince will choose or battle your way through Waterloo, you are using those critical thinking skills, and what you use while you are reading will invariably prove useful in real life. Not everyone can (or wants to) be Hercule Poirot, but we can all use a little more of our “little grey cells” in life, right?
It expands your vocabulary.
Reading puts words into your head that you didn’t know before. Eventually those words will make it out of your head and into your conversation, making you a more articulate and well-spoken person. Whether you are the CEO of Apple or a school teacher or the guy working the counter at Wendy’s, having an extensive vocabulary will serve you well. People with broad vocabularies automatically sound like they know what they are talking about. Employers notice it, teachers notice it…pretty much everyone that you come into contact with will notice it at some point. And don’t be arrogant about it–teach someone else those words too.
Reading improves your memory.
If you are like me, and suddenly find yourself standing in the middle of the room wondering what you went in there for in the first place, there is hope. Reading involves a lot of remembering–plots, heroes and heroines, subplots, little details that only SEEM insignificant…and each memory that you put in your head creates new synapses, or pathways, in your brain. It also strengthens the existing ones, helping to improve both your short term and long term memory. Now. Where were we?
It’s a stress reliever.
Reading allows you, even if it’s just for a little while, to power down. Stop worrying about the bills and the plumbing and that pesky termite problem and whether or not you’ve got the money this month for new tires…let yourself relax and get lost in a book. Granted, the problems will still be there when you are finished with the book, but something forgetting about things for a while gives us a new perspective when we emerge from our reading coma.
It stimulates the mind.
Your brain is a muscle, and just like your biceps, it needs to be flexed or it’s going to get flabby. Stimulating your brain keep it from losing power, and studies have even shown that reading can hold off, or even prevent all together, dementia and Alzheimer’s. The phrase “use it or lose it” comes to mind. (See how I did that? :-))
It helps you focus.
Our planet has become “overstimulation central”. Everywhere we turn something is vying for our attention, and we are growing increasingly unable to concentrate. We sleep with our phones, check Facebook when we should be listening to the sermon, answer emails while we are driving down the road…and we aren’t doing any of it well. Being overstimulated actually causes our stress levels to rise, because we realize that we aren’t doing anything well and it upsets us. Reading focuses all of your attention on the story and allows you to shut everything else down for a while. The more you concentrate the better you will be able to focus on other things. Even as little as 15-20 minutes of focused reading in the morning can change your ability to concentrate for the rest of the day.
Go to the library. Download it on your iPad or Kindle. Did you know that there are hundreds-of-thousands of classics available for free on the internet? Here are some great websites where you can download classic books for free on your computer, iPad, Kindle or other device.
These are just a few of the hundreds of sites that you can find that will allow you to download free books. Amazon also has a great selection of free books which is updated hourly. It usually includes a great mix of new releases and old favorites so you are certain to find something that will capture your interest.
Wrapping it up.
Possibly the greatest benefit of reading is that reading is an intensely personal activity. You can do it by yourself (in fact I prefer to do it by myself), you can choose to read whatever you want to, and you don’t have to justify your time or choices to anyone. Reading doesn’t require a partner. It doesn’t require special equipment. You can read silently or out loud to yourself. Put on your headphones and listen to some good quiet music while you read. But whatever you do…READ.
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