Why reading is good for you

Why reading is good for you August 24, 2015

Reading a lot, for pleasure, is associated with all kinds of physical and psychological benefits.  Details after the jump.

From David Murray, How Reading Can Transform Your Health | HeadHeartHand Blog:

In How Changing Your Reading Habits Can Transform Your Health, Michael Grothaus says, “Reading doesn’t just improve your knowledge, it can help fight depression, make you more confident, empathetic, and a better decision-maker.”

Grothaus’s life was in a rut…until he read War and Peace. Its 1500 pages took him two months to conquer and immediately became his favorite book because of how it changed him. “It’s almost impossible to explain why,” he says “but after reading it I felt more confident in myself, less uncertain about my future…As weird as it sounds, reading War and Peace put me back in control of my life—and that’s why it’s my favorite book.”

But Grothaus’s further research into reading revealed that such a transformation through reading wasn’t weird but ‘the norm for people who read a lot—and one of the main benefits of reading that most people don’t know about.” What else did he discover?

  • Reading for pleasure can help prevent conditions such as stress, depression, and dementia.
  • Reading can offer richer, broader, and more complex models of experience, which enable people to view their own lives from a refreshed perspective and with renewed understanding.
  • Reading about other characters and situations helps you to look at life’s challenges from a renewed perspective.
  • People who read find it easier to make decisions, plan, and prioritize, because they are more able to recognize that difficulty and setback are unavoidable aspects of human life.
  • People who read for pleasure regularly report fewer feelings of stress and depression than non-readers.
  • Being more engaged with reading, along with other hobbies, is associated with a lower subsequent risk of incidents of dementia.
  • People who read books regularly are on average more satisfied with life, happier, and more likely to feel that the things they do in life are worthwhile.
  • Despite reading being a solitary experience research shows that reading improves empathy and increases social support.
  • A recent survey of 1,500 adult readers found that 76% of them said that reading improves their life and helps to make them feel good.

Grothaus goes on to give four tips on how to overcome obstacles to reading in our distracted and over-committed lives (see here).

I can see how those big 19th century immersive novels–like War and Peace  and, I would add, Les Miserables–could have such a dramatic effect.  Have any of you had a similar experience to Mr. Grothaus?  Can any of you testify to the beneficial effects of reading?

HT:  Mary Moerbe

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