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Benefits of reading

​​Author: Shirley Erasmus
Copyright: EduConnect 2019 (​)

When was the last time you got absorbed a great read? And no, scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed doesn't count as reading.

I get it. We live in a fast-paced, get-it-all-at-the-click-of-a-finger kind of society. When we can watch the thrilling novel being played out by our favourite actors in under two hours, why bother reading the four-hundred-word book?

We all know that the book is actually better than the movie, but the thing is, reading has countless benefits you might not know about, like stimulating your brain, and making you a smarter, sexier human being (and who wouldn't want that?!)

Here are 10 benefits of reading you should know about:

Did you know? Reading makes you smarter – for longer.

Actually, it's true. You've probably heard it before: the brain is a muscle, like any other, in your body and without being exercised regularly it stops working the way it should. Reading is a cognitive activity which stimulates the brain and, like a workout for your brain, reading can help to improve memory function.  This means that by keeping your brain active for longer you can delay the onset of memory loss, dementia and diseases like Alzheimer's.

According to a Dr Robert Freidland study on elderly patients with Alzheimer's Disease, people who regularly read or play mentally challenging games are less likely to get Alzheimer's disease. He claims that people who don't engage in intellectual activities such as reading stand a chance of losing brain power later in life – yikes!

Did you know? Reading helps you unplug.

It's time to get stuck into that great book that you've been meaning to read and put the iPad down for a while. Reading a book helps you to unplug from your 20-word tweets, 'what's on your mind' status updates and 'LOLs.' It helps you to forget about your cell phone, tablet and laptop for a while.

Why is that important? Well, young people's reliance on technology every second of the day has been linked to depression, stress and fatigue. Reading helps you to get out of the social media and technology sphere for a while. Sara Thomée, a researcher on a study regarding how intensive mobile phone use affects young people's sleep believes, “Public health advice should include information on the healthy use of this technology."

Did you know? Reading helps you de-stress.

True story. There's nothing like curling up with a great book and forgetting about the world for a while. In fact, reading has been scientifically shown to reduce stress by two thirds, by reading for only 6 minutes a day. However, the effects are better the longer you spend reading. What more reason do you need to make yourself a cup of coffee and cuddle up with a great book?

Did you know? Reading can make you a better person.

No – I'm not only referring to self-help books here. In fact, almost any book will do (unless you're reading 'The Idiot's Guide to Being a Horrible Person'). Research also suggests that reading books helps us to be more empathetic people by helping us to see the world from many perspectives. Being immersed in the lives of the characters in books helps to strengthen your ability to understand others' feelings and therefore empathise better with those around you!

Did you know? Reading can help you sleep better.

That is – unless you get so wrapped up in a book that you spend the whole night reading.

The American Academy of Pediatrics's has published research shows how being glued to your tablet or cellphone before bed can actually have a negative effect on your sleep, partly by reducing your sleep duration. Reading a book before bed, however, can help you unwind. By making reading before bed a habit, you can signal to your brain when it's time to go to sleep.

Did you know? Reading improves your concentration.

In a world of get-it-all-now information right at your fingertips, it's easy to be distracted at all times by the latest tweet and Facebook update. Reading can help you to concentrate and improve your focus. By reading for 20 minutes a day, you can teach your brain to stay focussed for longer periods of time – which will really come in handy for those three-hour university tutorials.

Did you know? Reading can help you be more creative.

Reading encourages you to examine the plot, or the argument being put forward and helps you to decipher what works and what doesn't. This applies to all forms of life. Reading and deciding whether the article was well written, or whether you agree with what was argued, or whether you enjoyed a particular character, helps you to be more creative in your own life because it improves brain function and cognition.

According to a Pew Research Centre survey conducted on reading habits, a quarter of people who had read a book in the last 12 months said that what they enjoyed most about reading was “learning, gaining knowledge, and discovering information," while 15% said that they enjoyed reading for “the pleasures of escaping reality, becoming immersed in another world, and the enjoyment they got from using their imaginations."

Did you know? Reading helps us to understand ourselves.

Again, this applies not only to those self-help books you see all over. Reading helps you to understand why you might agree or disagree with a character, or a point of view. Thus, not only do you become a smarter, more empathetic person, but you also come to understand your own perceptions better.

Did you know? Reading helps you communicate better

Because reading helps to improve your vocabulary, it can help you learn how to communicate better. People who read tend to have a wider range of words to express and communicate their feelings which always helps to get your point across. Check out this paper which suggests that children with better vocabularies do better in school, and the same goes for university students.

In a world where communicating your thoughts and feelings effectively is as important as being mindful of what you say- reading can really come in handy.

Did you know? Reading is free entertainment.

I know what it's like to live on a student budget, so I understand that books are pretty expensive. What better reason to get out that old dusty library card and get yourself a couple of good reads to which to snuggle up. Not only is reading free and great for your health, there are also plenty of websites where you can get amazing classics for free!

If these are not some reasons to pick up the nearest George RR Martin and get stuck in the world of reading, then I don't know what is!

EduConnect 2Cents

Many of us used to read a lot when we were younger, but many of us have stopped the healthy habit. Between university readings, binge series watching, and weekend outings, there isn't always time or energy to read. But that is a shame. We should all try to read at least a few books each year, seeing as the benefits are invaluable.

Dr. Suess says it best, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."