Reading is integral to our lives. We read for pleasure, for work, for learning, for research, for distraction, for interest, and for self-development, and we do it because we want to or because we have to. Some of us enjoy it, and some of us do not.
Reading can also be done to improve our wellbeing. This does not mean we have to read about wellness or health-related topics. We can read on any subject and in any format- newspapers, magazines, books, or other publications, whether physical or digital. Here are 5 reasons why reading is an important part of our wellness.
1. Since Infancy, Reading Strengthens Our Cognitive Development
We learn to read when we are children, and reading is a vital part of our cognitive development. But, the benefits of reading begin even before we learn how to do it. A study published in Brazil stated that reading was an important part of us becoming healthy citizens (Junior, 2015). The study explains that this part of our cognitive development begins during infancy as parents and caretakers read books to us. Reading to children at an early age, even before they learn how to speak, helps them to relate and explore the world around them.
The study goes on to say that integrating reading early in the child’s life is required to ensure they develop language skills, spelling and math skills, and curiosity. It says that reading at a young age sets the stage for a strong performance in school at a later stage (Junior, 2015).
A different study supported this finding, and said that interactive parenting, in which the parent or caretaker stimulated the child through reading, telling stories, talking, playing, and eating together, promoted the child’s ability to develop strong cognitive function and perform well in school (Shah, Sobotka, Chen, & Msall, 2015). The study explained that this early development period occurred in the first 3 years of life, which was the time in which the brain’s functions were beginning to form.
2. Reading Stimulates The Brain
Reading is one of many intellectually challenging activities that stimulate our brain. A study that analyzed the brain of 16 deceased patients found that those who had been involved in professions that required more intellectual activity, and that required more “skill or education” had increased neuronal activity, which helped to stimulate the brain (Belvoir Media Group, 2007).
3. Reading Helps Protect Against Alzheimer’s
A different study compared the intellectual, physical, and passive activities of people who suffered from Alzheimer’s to those who did not, and found that people with Alzheimer’s were less active during their early to middle adulthood stage (Friedland et al., 2001). The study suggested that maintaining physical activity and keeping intellectually active, including reading, during the ages of 20 to 60, would protect from developing Alzheimer’s later in life.
4. Reading Helps Prevent Dementia
As we grow older, reading is an essential part of ensuring that our brains continue to function in a healthy manner. A study on 214 people aged 55 to 86 said that participating in intellectually engaging activities helped protect the brain from cognitive decline (Friedland et al., 2001). Reading is among those intellectual activities that seniors can engage in to help reduce the probability of developing dementia (Belvoir Media Group, 2007). Other intellectual activities include crossword puzzles and playing musical instruments.
5. Reading Increases Mindfulness
Mindfulness is about being present. It is about living in the moment, without getting distracted by what has happened in the past or what is going to happen in the future. It is about focusing on what is happening right now, at this moment. Mindfulness has been demonstrated to improve cognitive activity, improve mood, and reduce stress, pain, and depression (Braden et al., 2016).
There are many ways of achieving mindfulness, including meditation, movement, yoga, tai chi, and reading. When we read, we focus on the words and on what the author is conveying at that moment. It is one of the most effective ways of focusing our minds to the right here and right now.
Surely, reading distracts us. As we read, we may lose interest or our mind may wonder to think of someone or something. But unlike other activities, such as watching TV, the words on the page do not go away. They stay there, waiting patiently for us to pay attention again. In this manner, they provide an anchor for our minds to come back to when we have gotten over the distraction.
Reading is informative, imparts knowledge, entertains, and distracts. Regardless of what drives us to read, we should read throughout our lives. We engage our kids in reading starting in their infancy, and we take it upon ourselves to continue reading as we grow and develop into adulthood, as adults, and into our senior years.
Belvoir Media Group. (2007). Want to improve memory? Strengthen your synapses. Here’s how. MedicalNewsToday. Retrieved on August 14, 2017 from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/60455.php
Braden, B. B., Pipe, T. B., Smith, R., Glaspy, T. K., Deatherage, B. R., & Baxter, L. C. (2016). Brain behavior changes associated with an abbreviated 4-week mindfulness based stress reduction course in back pain patients. Brain and Behavior, 6(3), e00443. doi:10.1002/brb3.443
Friedland, R. P., Fritsch, T., Smyth, K. A., Koss, E., Lerner, A. J., Chen, C. H., Petot, G. J., & Debanne, S. M. (2001). Patients with Alzheimer’s disease have reduced activities in midlife compared with healthy control-group members. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 98(6), 3440-3445. doi:10.1073./pnas.061002998
Junior, D. C. (2015). The formation of citizens: the pediatrician’s role. Jornal de Pediatria, 92(3 Suppl 1), S23-S29. Http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jped.2015.12.002
Shah, R., Sobotka, S. A., Chen, Y.F., & Msall, M. E. (2015). Positive parenting practices, health disparities, and developmental progress. Pediatrics, 136(2), 318-326. doi:10.1542/peds/2014-3390