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Reading Benefits: Reduce Stress, Keep Depression at Bay

By May 17, 2020 covid-19, Health
Woman reading book on the couch

Reading books benefits both your physical and mental health, and those benefits can last a lifetime. And during this stressful time, reading can also benefit your emotional well-being and help you get a good night’s sleep.

When you read, you stimulate your brain and make it active.  Reading requires a constant effort that is absent from video watching or listening.  It keeps your brain occupied.

Try to pick up a book instead of turning on the television for another binge session, as it can take you to another place and help you concentrate more on something that helps push your other thoughts, and worries, to the side for a while.

Researchers say that reading can help you by:

Reducing stress

In 2009, a group of researchers measured the effects of yoga, humor and reading on the stress levels of university students in demanding health science programs.

The study found that 30 minutes of reading lowered blood pressure, heart rate and feelings of psychological distress just as effectively as yoga and humor did.

The authors concluded, “Since time constraints are one of the most frequently cited reasons for high stress levels reported by health science students, 30 minutes of one of these techniques can be easily incorporated into their schedule without diverting a large amount of time from their studies.”

Helping alleviate depression symptoms

Reading fiction can allow you to temporarily escape your own world and become swept up in the imagined experiences of the characters. And non-fiction self-help books can teach you strategies that may help you manage symptoms.

A person suffering from depression either keeps his/her mind inactive or occupied with negative thoughts but, when they read a positive book, they can fill their mind with positive content which further generates positive energy.

Preparing you for a good night’s rest

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic suggest reading as part of a regular sleep routine.

For best results, you may want to choose a print book rather than reading on a screen, since the light emitted by your device could keep you awake and lead to other unwanted health outcomes.

Doctors also recommend that you read somewhere other than your bedroom if you have trouble falling asleep.

Strengthening your brain

Researchers have found that when you read, it actually changes your brain.

Using MRI scans, they found that reading involves a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain. The more you read, the more those networks get stronger and more sophisticated.

In one study conducted in 2013, researchers used MRI scans to measure the effect of reading a novel on the brain. Study participants read the novel “Pompeii” over a period of nine days. As tension built in the story, more and more areas of the brain lit up with activity.

Brain scans showed that throughout the reading period and for days afterwards, brain connectivity increased. This is especially in the somatosensory cortex.  This is part of the brain that responds to physical sensations like movement and pain.

Helping prevent age-related cognitive decline

The National Institute on Aging recommends reading books and magazines as a way of keeping your mind engaged as you grow older.

Although research hasn’t proven conclusively that reading books prevents diseases like Alzheimer’s, researchers have found that seniors who read and solve math problems every day maintain and improve their cognitive functioning.

And the earlier you start, the better. A 2013 study conducted by Rush University Medical Center found that people who’ve engaged in mentally stimulating activities all their lives were less likely to develop the plaques, lesions and tau-protein tangles found in the brains of people with dementia.

The takeaway

There are also a number of other reading benefits including:

  • Memory improvement
  • Expanding your vocabulary
  • Improving your analytical thinking skills
  • Increasing your empathy.

If  you have more free time right now, picking up a book can help you open a whole world. Who knows? You might find a new favorite author, learn a new hobby or skill.  You may even learn more about a non-fiction subject that has always fascinated you.

The benefits of reading are vast but first you have to crack open a book and turn the page! 

In this time of uncertainty my team and I are doing everything in our power to provide you with the level of service you have come to expect.