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Novel Idea: What Reading Does For the Mind

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Photo by Julie Falk via Flickr

Do you have friends or family members who cannot put a book down, no matter what? Well, all I have to say is: Good. The Pew Research Center reported earlier this year that close to a quarter of American adults had not read a single book in the past year. This number has tripled since 1978. And all I have to say to that is: Well, should you be reading? Yes.

A novel can do a lot for you; it can relieve stress, increase brain power, help you improve emotional intelligence, and maybe even help you sleep better.

Reduce Stress After 6 Minutes of Turning Pages

Reading is one of the most effective ways to combat stress. Reading can reduce stress levels by 68%, according to Dr. David Lewis of the University of Sussex. It doesn’t necessarily matter what book you are reading, as long as you immerse yourself in it. This is because you are escaping reality for a little bit and going into the author’s reality. You enter an altered state of consciousness.

Boost Your Brain

You can become more positive by reading a good-spirited novel. Why? Well, as research suggests, reading a book can greatly benefit the cognitive processes in your brain. The Journal of Neurology reported that mentally stimulating activities such as reading help to slow memory loss as you get older, and people who read are capable of processing things 48% faster than those who did not read or were not involved with activities that promoted mental stimulation.

Get More Sleep

I am sure we have all experienced the “head to book” feeling and trying to stop ourselves from falling asleep. It is better to read with dim light at night, since it signals the brain that we are approaching sleep. The Mayo Clinic suggests creating a low-light environment and reading a book to help transition yourself to sleep. Dim lighting helps balance the circadian rhythms or our “internal clocks” that promote proper sleep and wake cycles.

Understand and Improve Emotions

In a study published in Plos One, researchers found that reading fiction helps us to be more aware of people’s feelings, thereby increasing empathy. This means you can gain more of the ability to understand and “feel” what others may be “feeling.”

Besides the pure excitement that comes with using your imagination while reading fiction, reading nonfiction has its benefits, too. Learning means expanding the mind, which means creating new neural pathways. Also, self-help books have been linked with reducing depression. The more we learn and remember, the easier it will be to ace exams and remember content under pressure. In addition, studies have shown that if you read aloud, you are able to retain information easier than reading silently. You may choose to incorporate both at different times for different levels of stimulation.

What are you waiting for? Pull out a book and start reading!

If you’re looking for suggestions, I recommend the The New York Times’ Best Sellers list.