I’m sure the last thing on your mind as you snuggled up in bed reading Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, was how it was keeping you healthy. But believe it or not, there actually are a bunch of health benefits to be gained that can help us grow and stay healthy for the long term. Each benefit of reading books is also universal and applicable to everyone old enough to know their ABC’s. Read more to find out 6 great health benefits to reading.
1. Reduced Stress
Our first amazing benefit of reading books is how great it is at reducing our stress levels. For many people reading can have the same calming effect as meditation classes or yoga. Consequentially, reducing stress can in turn improve our mental health. Reading allows us to escape from stressful reality and pressures, and if done in the correct amounts this benefit of reading books can do wonders to keep us mentally healthy. The elderly especially will see great benefits from reading because it lowers their risk of mental health diseases, such as dementia. Adding reading to your schedule can be a part of your healthy ageing plan.
This calming effect has been shown to be true for people of all ages, with reading also working as a type of mindfulness meditation for kids. For kids reading can help them relax and focus on one thing, giving their brain time to process the emotions and thoughts of the whole day.
2. Better Sleep
And if made a consistent part of your daily night-time routine, then you can even start to sleep better! Reading calms your brain and allows you to relax, preparing you for a good night of sleep. This study done by Sussex University highlights how reading a book can slash stress levels by a whopping 68%.
Although you might need to start sleeping with a night-light, because reading on digital devices can have contradictory effects. This is because while reading has been shown to help the quality of our sleep, electronic devices have been shown to shown to disrupt our natural body clock. Meaning reading with digital devices before bed can be counter-productive to our sleep.
This also means that if you’ve been struggling with putting your kids to sleep, then a bedtime story could help immensely, with it being just as useful as sleep meditation for kids. With some dimmed lights, a warm blanket, and their favourite toy, a quiet snuggly session of reading can help close the chapter on an otherwise stressful day.
While reading we can escape our stressful reality and dive into the brains of other people, seeing the world from a new perspective. This new perspective in turn has been shown to help people better understand and keep up with the world, boosting our empathy and natural intelligence. With studies even showing stronger emphatic responses from prisoners beginning to have stronger empathy and remorse for their actions.
Emotional intelligence is one of the greatest benefit to be gained from reading books and it can seep into other aspects of your life. You’ll find that you being able to better understand other people will lead to stronger relationships. In turn having stronger social ties will help you maintain your maintain health, and lead to a longer and happier life.
4. Memory & Concentration
Reading a book requires you focus all your attention on one thing. As you read, your memory works hard to remember all that has transpired in the story. Each new memory creates new synapses within your brain and strengthens the existing ones.
Think of it like a brain workout. When you read, you train your short term memory just like lifting weights trains your muscles. Reading triggers an increased blood flow to your brain just like a run boosts the circulation in your body. You will find that reading also helps you improve your concentration.
Reading allows you to keep your brain active, fit, and mentally charged. It also boosts your imagination and sparks your creativity as it introduces you to new worlds and characters. The mental stimulation you receive from books is great for your mental health and has also been found to ward off degenerative brain conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
For our final benefit from reading books, we have the classic factoid of it being an amazing way to learn new things. But this learning isn’t just limited to the dullest textbooks though. Regardless of your favourite genre, one of the biggest benefits from reading is that it enhances your level of intelligence and general knowledge by constantly engaging your mind with the written word.
And as we learn, we become able to express ourselves. Reading helps us create a stronger vocabulary while giving us new ideas and quotes which helps improve our ability to write and talk. Its a lot easier to say something profound if you’re quoting than it is when you’re having to make it up on the spot. Good communication skills are of great importance in every sphere of your life, and by reading we give ourselves the greatest chance to learn how to express ourselves.
Reading will also improve your critical thinking and problem-solving abilities while teaching you how to handle a diverse set of situations. And this applies to people of all ages, even children. A number of studies have highlighted how the number of books in your home is directly proportional to the academic results of your child. On average, children with a higher number of books at home tend to score higher in math, science, English and other subjects. Reading to your child in any way can also help them develop a better vocabulary and speech patterns, triggers their imagination, and gives them skills like visualization and analysis.
3 Easy Steps to get your Kids to Read
Most parents confessed that they’d love to wean their kids off everything that involved screen time. They also admitted that they would like their kids to read for fun, so that they could start seeing every benefit from reading books develop over time.
The results of a survey of kids in Australia has highlighted how over 60% of the kids agreed they like reading books but only a third of them stuck to the habit. It is extremely difficult for children to resist the attraction of screens and turn to books, so how do you help your child read?
The first steps are the hardest:
1. Change begins with you
Children are far more likely to stick to a habit if it is developed from a young age. It is vital that you help create a love for reading early on. But because kids learn from example, it’s up to you as a parent to lead the way. When your kids notice you reading and enjoying books, it will pique their curiosity and they will be far more likely to indulge in reading in their free time. If you can’t read on your own, make a ritual of reading to your child together before bedtime or on weekends. For this its recommended that reading time be at least 15 minutes bare minimum.
If you can’t spend time reading with your child, make it easy for them to access books. A child who has never picked up a book before may suddenly begin reading if they find a circus-themed book or a space-themed book. This is why it’s great to allow kids to browse. If you have a big collection of books, let them spend some quiet time looking for something to read. If you don’t have many books at home, take them on library trips regularly and let them pick out something they would like to read.
2. Get them to think about books
You can highlight to your children how reading is enjoyable by having them try and think about the stories and topics that they have in their books.
Children should be encouraged to give reviews of their favourite books and talk to their friends about books they like. Ask your children questions about the stories or characters they responded to, so that it fires up their imagination and gets them to ruminate about all that they have read.
3. Let them choose
No habit can be developed through force or imposition. By letting your kids pick the books that catch their interest, you’re motivating them to read instead of instructing them.
You’ll also be surprised by the level of complexity that children can handle. Avoid choosing books based only on age or grade and let them choose what they are interested in.
Reading can be one of the best hobbies for kids but you have to introduce them to many genres to help them find what interests them. Maybe they’d prefer comedy or poetry instead of fantasy. Or, maybe they’d prefer about reading about animals or space over fiction.
Once you know the genres they like, you can help them find the books that excite them and watch them improve from the benefits of reading books.
How can a book replace the attractions of a colourful, moving screen?
One of the biggest concerns for any parent is that a screen is so much more exciting than a book. A screen has sounds and music and colours that grip a child (or an adult) and make it impossible for them to look away.
To get your child to focus on a book may be harder now than it has ever been, but it’s not impossible.
- For younger children, have them sit close to you so that they can see both your face and the book
- Allow kids to pick the books they like no matter how young they are. If they ask for it, read it aloud even if this means reading it every night
- Make reading fun by making funny sounds to engage their minds and senses, and ask them to participate by pointing out things on the page, repeating words or phrases, and making up their own sounds
- Turn off all electronic distractions when you’re reading. Switch off the TV and put your phone on silent. Look for a quiet place to read so that you can have your child’s complete attention
- Make reading a habit by forming a routine. Set up a comfortable reading spot so that you and your child are both comfortable. Try to stick to the routine so your child associates the time with reading
- If you have more than one child in your house, encourage the older children to share reading time with the younger ones or make it a family activity. Ensure equal participation, ask questions and encourage answers so that children develop an interest in reading
Time to read!
If you’ve been a reader all your life, you already know the benefits of reading but for those who are actively trying to build a reading habit, start off with books that interest you. Reading is a great low-cost hobby to try at home. You are far more likely to stick to a reading habit if you enjoy it and if it doesn’t feel like homework.
If you want to do even more to stay healthy, consider booking your health services through Avaana. Avaana allows you to compare and contrast all kinds of health practitioners near you to make sure you’re making the best choice possible. Book today, and even enjoy up to 20% off your first booking.
Be well, feel good and smile a lot!