What are the Psychological Benefits of Daily Reading?

Daily Reading

The first novel ever written is said to be by a Japanese author about one thousand years ago. The novel was called ‘The Tales of Genji’ by Murasaki Shikibu. Well from then till now, there have been n number of novels written and people are obsessed with them. Reading is a habit which most parents try to inculcate in their child from childhood. Even now when you can see stories appear in handheld devices, some people still like to read. Now, reading is not only about reading novels or for educational purposes. Reading also includes reading online articles, magazines, newspapers, etc. This habit has numerous benefits across different ages and backgrounds. Reading, especially reading stories, can have various physical and mental benefits for an individual.

How Does Reading Impact Our Brain?

In simple terms, we can say that reading literally changes our mind. There are numerous studies conducted that conclude that reading impacts different regions of our brain strengthening cognitive circuits. One study published in PubMed Central using MRI scans, investigated volume changes in the brain reading regions and their association with reading measures, the results imply that the development trajectories of reading-related brain areas differ among children who are better readers and who may read more than less proficient readers. Comprehending the connections among reading proficiency, reading exposure, and brain development paths could aid in the creation and assessment of focused interventions.

Another study was conducted in 2013 where the goal was to investigate if reading a novel causes a change in brain connectivity and if yes how long does it last. Functional brain images were taken of participants who were reading a novel named ‘Pompei’ for 9 days. As there were changes and twists in the story different brain areas lit up as shown in the MRI scans. Brain scans also revealed that brain connection increased during the reading period and for days thereafter, particularly in the somatosensory cortex, the area of the brain responsible for processing movement and pain.

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Here are some benefits of reading

Increases Empathy:

Empathy is the ability to feel other people’s emotions.it is important to have empathy as it helps in building social relationships. While reading a book a person relates and understands the varied characters of the book. It is like they walk in the characters’ shoes for some time, which is to say they empathize with the characters. Hence, with this they develop an understanding of human nature and feelings, making them empathize more even in daily life.

There has been a lot of research conducted on the association of what we call ‘the theory of mind’ which is characterized by understanding other people’s mental states, to reading novels. It has revealed that reading literary fiction increases the Theory of mind. Although only one session of reading will not immediately enhance empathy, long-time readers do have an enhanced theory of mind.

Building Vocabulary:

It is simple if you read books, you come across new different words, you find the meaning of the words and later even try to use them. This is what building vocabulary looks like. And a good vocabulary helps you in the various facets of life where you require soft skills like effective communication skills. Instead of reading from a dictionary you learn the words in the context of a story, hence they also have a better recall value. There was a longitudinal study conducted, which investigated how reading comprehension and reading experience aid vocabulary development in the children when they were aged 8, 11, 14, and 16. The results found that the children who were good at comprehension and readers showed growth in their vocabulary by the age of 16.

Battles Mental Decline and Dementia:

Dementia refers to the mental decline that involves trouble thinking, remembering, or making judgements which affects mostly older adults. As people grow into old age they may experience mental decline with impaired cognitive functions. Studies have indicated an association between reading and brain health. It has consistently shown that participating in activities that engage your brain like reading can reduce your chance of developing dementia at an older age. Whether engaging in hobbies lowers one’s risk of dementia was examined in a 2010 study involving 942 participants.

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The research revealed that only over 39% of those with dementia regularly read books, compared to almost 54% of those without dementia. A 2013 study that involved 1,651 adults over 55 years of age evaluated their cognitive function. Even in cases where there was evidence of brain injury, the study indicated that those who always engaged in mentally demanding activities like writing and reading saw a far slower rate of mental deterioration.

Reduces Stress and Anxiety:

With an increase in industrialization and urbanization, there has also been an increase in stress and anxiety among individuals, reading can be of significant help in reducing stress and anxiety. In a study conducted by the University of Sussex, it has been found that reading for even only 6 minutes can reduce stress by 68%. According to this study, it was also found that reading reduced stress more than listening to music (by 61 percent), tea or coffee (by 54 percent), and walking (by 42 percent).

Cognitive neuropsychologist, Dr. David Lewis, who conducted the study, said, “No matter what kind of book you’re reading, if you’re immersed in a well-written book, you’ll be able to take a break from the stresses and anxieties of the day and spend some time in the writer’s world.” Reading can have an enormous impact on your mental health, but the benefits go far beyond that. In fact, some medical professionals prescribe reading as part of their mental health therapy, a form of which is known as bibliotherapy.

Help Alleviate Depression Symptoms:

The number of people who feel alone and depressed is rising day by day. People lack social connections and even if they have it, they feel misunderstood and a sense of loneliness. People with depression feel estranged and isolated from everyone else. Hence books can help alleviate this loneliness by giving a sense of inclusion in a story. You can momentarily escape reality by immersing yourself in the life of the fictional characters’ story. Also, you can learn techniques from non-fiction self-help books that might aid in symptom management.

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Summing everything up, we know the tremendous psychological benefits reading can have on an individual. It improves our way of life and aids in mental health. Reading can be anything you read like you are currently reading this article, or your father reading the newspaper in the morning etc. Reading should include what you enjoy reading it might even be a children’s story or picture book. It is a habit that should be included in your daily life to boost your mental health.

  • https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-reading-books#strengthens-the-brain
  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21772058/
  • https://www.webmd.com/balance/health-benefits-of-reading-books

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