On Thursday September 20th people all over the country will be participating in Australian Reading Hour!
If, upon hearing this, your immediate response is “YAY!!” then the only real question you need to ask yourself is, “What book will I read?”
If, however, your first thought is more along the lines of “But I don’t have an hour of free time to spend reading!?” then I urge you to examine that thought and ask yourself … why is reading so important?
Reading helps to lower stress.
Reading has been proven to reduce stress by 68% – ranking higher than listening to music, going for a walk or having a cup of tea! (Although for optimal results I highly recommend a three pronged strategy of reading + music + a cup of tea).
When you begin reading a book, there are biological changes that occur within your body. It only takes 6 minutes of reading to lower your heart rate and relax your muscles.
The reason reading is so relaxing is that occupies your attention and exercises your imagination. When your mind is engaged by a book it’s bit like putting the rest of the world on “mute” or a while . It causes you to focus far more than when you’re watching TV or scrolling social media. How often have you found your attention drift to your phone while watching a movie or TV show? The siren call of the internet is just so hard to resist. and your phone is sitting right there within easy reach! Reading a good book will hold your full attention, causing the rest of the world to fade away for a while and allowing you to regroup, refocus and relax.
Reading helps you to sleep better
And no, I don’t mean books are so boring they put you to sleep!
Reading a book is like exercise for your brain. Just like your body benefits from a workout at the gym, your mind benefits from a good reading session. When your brain is well exercised, you are much more likely to enjoy a refreshing, healing night of uninterrupted sleep. Even just a quick 10 minutes of reading before bed has been proven to drastically increase the quality of sleep a person enjoys – and this is especially true for people reading on paper. Staring at screens before bed exposes your body to photons which effect melatonin levels. In a sense, staring at your phone before you go to sleep is like having a coffee right before bedtime.
Basically, books help you sleep better! Because …. science!
(Of course there are exceptions to this rule. A really good book can keep you up until the early hours of the morning, negatively impacting your sleep routine. But if it’s a really good book then the it’s worth a little sleep deprivation, right?)
Reading boosts brain power and can be good for your mental health
Reading can be good for your mental health because it lowers stress – and stress can take a heavy toll on mental health, leading to anxiety and depression.
Reading, like all cognitively engaging activities, can also help improve your memory. It has even been suggested that reading can slow the decline of memory function as we age! Reading also helps us to sleep better (see above) and everyone knows that sleep is essential to maintaining mental health.
Reading increases your emotional intelligence too!
Reading allows you to see the world through the eyes of another, to experience perspectives outside of your own. Through books you can begin to view the world through different cultural and historical frameworks . This improves empathy and promotes higher emotional intelligence. Getting lost in a good book can make it easier for people to relate to others, form stronger relationships and become more sensitive to emotional subtexts and social ques. When tested for empathy, readers of literary fiction consistently achieve higher results than other groups.
Basically, reading can help you to become a more compassionate and empathetic person!
So! If I haven’t yet convinced you that regular reading (even as little as 10 minutes a day) can seriously improve your quality of life then check out the below information from Australian Reading Hour:
• Increasing literacy and numeracy skills has a positive and significant effect on jobs
• Children who know adults who read for pleasure take it for granted that reading is valuable
• It was found by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research that reading to children six to seven days a week puts them almost a year ahead of those who are not being read to.
• The more leisure books people read, the more literate they become and the more prosperous and equitable the society they inhabit
• Reading a gripping novel causes positive biological changes in the brain that can last for days
• When tested for empathy, readers of narrative fiction achieved significantly higher than other groups
• Reading is closely linked to increasing our understanding of our own identities
• Reading reduces stress by 68%, relieving stress more quickly than listening to music, going for a walk or having a cup of tea
There you have it! Reading is clearly amazing – a vitally important ingredient for a happy, healthy brain! People who read regularly are happier and healthier and wiser – so make sure you join us this Thursday the 20th of September for Australian Reading Hour.
And in the meantime, don’t miss our “Why Read?” episode of The Booktopia Podcast in which John Purcell, Bronwyn Eley and yours truly discuss all the reasons why we think reading is so important!
About the Contributor
Sarah McDuling is Booktopia's Senior Content Producer and Editor of The Booktopian Blog. She has been in the bookselling game for almost a decade and a dedicated booklover since birth (potentially longer). At her happiest when reading a book, Sarah also enjoys talking/writing/tweeting about books. In her spare time, she often likes to buy a lot of books and take photographs of books. You can follow her on Twitter and Instragram @sarahmcduling
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