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The impact of reading on personal health

Books transport people to different times, provide a sense of escapism and introduce readers to different schools of thought. Individuals may read for pleasure and/or to expand their intellectual horizons.

It's important to note that reading also may help improve mental and physical health. With so much to gain from reading, now is a great time to embrace those book clubs, resolve to read more and explore how picking up a good book may be just what the doctor ordered.

Reduces stress

Immersing yourself in a story requires focus and concentration. According to researchers at the University of Sussex, it took just six minutes of reading for study participants to experience slower heart rates and reduced muscle tension.

Stress is one of the biggest threats to overall health, as the stress hormone cortisol can lead to inflammation in the body that may impede the immune system, according to Piedmont Health. Finding ways to reduce stress, including through activities like reading, is a win for anyone who wants to improve his or her health.

Impacts longevity

According to the 2016 study, "A chapter a day: Association of book reading with longevity," by Bavishi A, Slade M.D., reading exerts its influence on longevity by strengthening the mind. Reading positively impacts the way the brain creates synapses, optimizing neurological function. It also expands vocabulary and helps with memory.

Changes the brain

A 2014 study published in Neuroreport determined reading involves a complex system of signaling and networking in the brain. As one's ability to read matures, these networks become stronger and more sophisticated. MRI scans found that brain connectivity increased throughout studied reading periods and for days afterward.

Increases empathy

Through literary fiction, readers are exposed to the situations, feelings and beliefs of others. This can help a person develop a greater ability to empathize with others, according to Healthline.

Helps improve sleep

Reading is an effective way to wind down and relax before going to bed. It can be a positive nighttime ritual, provided one reads a paper book or utilizes an e-reader that is not backlit, as bright lights from digital devices may hinder sleep quality. In fact, doctors at the Mayo Clinic often suggest reading as part of a regular sleep routine.

Reduces depressive feelings

Individuals diagnosed with depression may feel isolated and estranged from other people. Books may reduce those feelings by helping a person temporarily escape his or her world into another. Also, books can serve as a common ground through which conversations over shared interests can begin with others.

Reading has many positive health benefits, which is why resolving to read more can be beneficial.


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