Book lovers have vouched for the immense benefits of reading for centuries, but nothing seems convincing to those who find reading to be a task. After learning about the scientific benefits of reading for mental health, whether you are a non-reader or someone who finds reading a chore, you will realize the benefits. Here are six ways reading can improve your mental health:
By reducing stress
Many studies have repeatedly shown that reading can reduce stress and the negative emotions it brings up in the mind and body. Reading for as little as 30 minutes a day releases happy hormones like dopamine and serotonin and reduces the effect of the stress hormone cortisol. Stress, especially for prolonged periods, can affect brain function and slow down body function. When you read, you step away from what triggers you and tune into an alternate world, making reading a relaxing activity.
By improving brain function
They say if you can’t trust the words, trust the numbers. Several studies and reports on various groups of individuals indicate that reading improves brain function. Improved brain activity can, in turn, improve mental well-being and flexibility. It also improves longevity. Research has shown that reading activates brain networks and connectivity and triggers the somatosensory cortex responsible for our physical sensations. Studies also show that the habit of reading prevents cognitive diseases such as dementia and forgetfulness. Reading stimulates neural networks in a way that keeps your mind engaged and refined.
By improving the quality of sleep
Nothing works more for a good night’s sleep than a reading session. Even 15-30 minutes of reading has been shown to have a calming and relaxing effect on the brain by reducing heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing stressful emotions. Reading helps you disconnect in a healthy way from everyday stressors or exhaustion from a hard day at work – something you need before you go to sleep. Be sure to take something light (or prepare for nightmares) and avoid reading on a screen for uninterrupted restful sleep. Reading at night also works for non-readers, as just picking up a book can be enough to put you on a lull. Either way, you’ll be falling asleep in pleasant dreams before you know it.
By making you more empathetic
Reading makes people empathic and aware of the emotions and energies of others. Because the books, both fictional and nonfiction, feature a wide range of characters from different walks of life, reading a variety of content broadens your perspective. It makes you more receptive to lives and beliefs different from your own, thereby improving your level of empathy. Empathy and the positive emotions that come with it can improve your mental health. In addition to making you an accepting and tolerant person, it can give you a more positive outlook on life and make you appreciate what you have, thereby improving your mental health through a knock-on effect.
By breaking habits of sabotage
Ignorance is not bliss if you think about it. Because reading opens the mind to new possibilities and other ways of thinking, it promotes mental flexibility. To preserve and improve your mental health, you have to be willing to make changes and take steps to improve your mental health in the first place. Mental wellness isn’t a linear process, but reading can help empower you and be open to change. A reading habit can help you introspect yourself more deeply, better understand your emotions and those of your peers, and develop a stronger relationship with yourself.
Helping you stay in the present
Because reading engages your mind and keeps you involved in all aspects of the content, it helps you better connect with the present moment. Reading can thus instill mindfulness and create a state of zen within you effortlessly. The simple act of “being” can do wonders for your mental health. Anchor yourself in the present. Free yourself from the weight of the past and the worries of the future. Interestingly, reading works in the same way as other de-stressing activities like yoga and meditation and has similar effects on mental well-being as laughing.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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