6 Science-Backed Reasons You Should Be Reading Every Day

Looking for an entertaining way to get healthy? Or a healthy way to be entertained? Science shows that the act of reading books can have a number of physical and mental health benefits, from improved brain function to less stress.

If you're someone who dips in and out of reading for fun, you'll know the difference you feel when you're engrossed in a book versus when you're addicted to the endless scroll of social media, where even a text-heavy meme can be too long for your tiny attention span to get through.

Here are just six benefits of reading that could change your life for the better.

Reading can reduce stress

According to a 2009 University of Sussex study, reading a book or newspaper for just six minutes lowered people's stress levels by 68 per cent. Researchers pointed to the immersive quality of reading as the reason it is able to relieve stress. Another study found that 30 minutes of reading lowered blood pressure, heart rate and feelings of psychological distress as effectively as yoga and humour.

Reading can strengthen the brain

Reading requires a complex network of brain circuits and signals, and the more you read the stronger and more sophisticated those networks get.

A 2013 study monitored participants over a nine-day period while they each read the novel Pompeii by Robert Harris. According to Healthline, brain scans during the reading period and immediately after showed increased brain connectivity , particularly in the somatosensory cortex, which is the part of the brain that response to physical sensations like movement and pain.

Reading can improve emotional intelligence

Some research shows that people with long-term experience reading literary fiction are more able to empathise with the thoughts and feelings of others. Healthline explains that the ability to empathise, sometimes referred to as the "theory of the mind", is essential for "building, navigating and maintaining social relationships".

Reading can help you live longer

Researchers at Yale University followed more than 3600 adults over the age of 50 over a 12-year period, and discovered that people who reported reading books for 30 minutes a day lived nearly two years longer than those who read magazines or newspapers. According to Mental Floss: "Participants who read more than 3.5 hours per week were 23 percent less likely to die, and participants who read less than 3.5 hours per week were 17 percent less likely to die."

Reading can expand your vocabulary and make you more knowledgeable

There have been hundreds of studies on the affects of reading on cognitive skills, vocabulary and factual knowledge. Avid readers who were tested with the Author Recognition Test showed that their vocabulary and fact-based knowledge banks were 50 per cent larger than those who were not avid readers. Speaking to Mental Floss, human development professor explains: "It's like a snowball effect. The better you are at reading, the more words you learn. The more words you learn, the better you are at reading and comprehending—especially things that would have been outside your domain of expertise."

Reading can boost creativity

Reading fiction has been shown to allow people to think more creatively and reach decisions faster. Psychologist Maja Djikic explains: "When we read fiction, we practice keeping our minds open because we can afford uncertainty." When asked to complete a questionnaire designed to test decision making skills, participants who read fiction showed more flexibility and creativity than those who read non-fiction.

Inspired to get reading? Here are six of the most critically acclaimed books of 2020, according to the Booker Longlist.

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