The availability of digital content has made it easy to forget how pleasurable it can be to pick up a good book and get lost in a story. In fact, a 2015 Huffington Post/YouGov poll of 1,000 adults in the United States found that 28 percent hadn’t read a single book in the previous 12 months.
Researchers at the Yale School of Public Health analyzed 12 years of data from the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study concerning reading habits. Among the 3,600 participants over the age of 50, those who read books for as little as 30 minutes per day over several years were living an average of two years longer than those who didn’t read.
Studies have shown that reading improves fluency and story retention while providing a host of additional benefits to young children. However, the perks do not end with the passing of adolescence. Data published in the journal Neurology found reading regularly improves memory function by working out the brain. This can help slow a decline in memory and other brain functions. Frequent brain exercise can lower mental decline by 32 percent, according to research published in The Huffington Post.
Studies even suggest that reading can help a person be more empathetic to others’ feelings. Research published in the journal Science showed that reading literary works (not popular fiction) cultivates a skill known as “theory of mind,” which is the “ability to ‘read’ the thoughts and feelings of others.”
Reading also can be calming, helping to reduce stress as a result. By losing oneself in a book, worries and stress can melt away, says research conducted in 2009 at the University of Sussex. Measuring heart rate and muscle tension, researchers discovered that study participants needed just six minutes to relax once they began reading.
There are many other reasons why reading is good for the mind and body. The following tips can help men and women find more time to read.
• Find small minutes to read. Busy people may think they don’t have the time to devote to reading, but if they read in small intervals, the amount of time will add up. Read during commutes (if you’re not driving), while in physicians’ waiting rooms or during a lunch hour.
• It’s okay to quit. If you’re a few chapters into a book and it’s not striking your fancy, it’s okay to trade up for a more interesting tale. Don’t feel obligated to finish a book if you are not engaged.
• Read paper books. Reading printed books can be a welcome, relaxing change from looking at screens all day. This may inspire you to read more and for longer periods of time.
• Join a book club. A book club in which you engage with fellow readers can motivate you to read more often.