Five Ways Reading Works Wonders for Your Brain
Reading is good for us, we know. But do we actually know why?
Most of us have received our formal education by way of reading, and it is one of the most essential activities we perform every day to navigate our life. But reading is not just a means of gathering knowledge and information. It is also one of the healthiest things you can do for your brain. Reading, especially reading a book, can literally change your brain, and in a good way.
April 23 is celebrated as World Book Day around the globe. Let us take this opportunity to give you some reasons to pick up a book right now.
1. Brain workout
There’s a reason so many people find it difficult to maintain or develop a reading habit – it is the same reason many of us find physical exercises difficult. Reading demands more from your brain than simple image or speech processing. Unlike visual media that just has an onslaught of images, reading is a slower, more deliberate process in which you get the time to stop and process what you read. Hence it engages your brain a lot more. Many areas in your brain work together – such as vision, language, motor functions, associative learning etc. This mental stimulation keeps your brain agile, and an agile brain keeps you protected from brain degenerative diseases like Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
2. Better neural connectivity
Reading improves connectivity between neurones in various areas of the brain. The left-temporal cortex, the area that processes languages, naturally sees heightened activity while reading. But this activity has been found to remain several days after the reading event takes place. Another significant finding is that reading literally puts you in the character’s shoes. The areas associated with different motor sensations in your brain light up when you read about those activities. For example, if you are reading about someone running, the neurons that are associated with running in your brain light up.
3. Stronger wiring
Reading not only improves connectivity, it also strengthens the vehicle of that connectivity, namely white matter. White matter is what encases the neurons and in turn the neural pathways. When white matter is strengthens, your neural pathways become stronger and better-etched. The more you read, the stronger your white matter gets, therefore the better you learn and remember the learned material.
4. Stress reduction
This is a no-brainer. Reading is one of the greatest stress-busting activities and a habit of reading regularly can take away much of your daily stress burden. Because of its ability to immerse you in other people’s experiences and different situations, reading acts as an effective escape from your reality. A 2009 study found that reading is more effective at reducing stress than many popular stress-busting activities such as listening to music, going for a walk etc. It has been found to reduce stress by a whopping 68%.
5. Improves social bonds
Reading might be a solitary activity in which you escape from your surroundings, but it actually has a surprisingly positive effect on your social interactions. The reason is – the more you read, the better you are at empathizing with other people and situations. Reading literally makes us go through the experiences of other people. If we read about many people and places, we stand a better chance of understanding situations that we may not have experienced in real life. This promotes understanding, trust, and better bonding among individuals, leading to better sociability.
Reading is one of the healthiest hobbies around, and also one of the most satisfying. We tend to always associate it with studies and work, which is boring. But reading can also be fun, and a profoundly fulfilling experience. When it comes with a side of amazing brain benefits, why not give it a try?