Oh I like it when science gives me an excuse to do something that I feel guilty about. Today’s comes via the Sunday Times and a lovely man called Professor Keith Oatley from the University of Toronto. He has discovered that people who read predominantly fiction tend to become more empathic and have more friends than non-fiction readers. Okay, so he then does point out that the more artistic the writing the greater the impact which means perhaps my holiday reading of eight trashy novels and a Brett Easton Ellis (who have now realised writes in really long sentences) hasn’t had the impact of say three days digesting a Gabriel Garcia Marquez but meh, it’s my brain and I’ll read trash if I want to. You can read more about Professor Oatley’s work here and here but before you skip off into the distance. Here’s four more health benefits of reading you might want to know about …
The Health Benefits of Reading
- Thirty minutes of reading a day is linked to a longer life: Instead of fiddling with your phone on your commute to work, grab and book and you could actually extend your life by two years say researchers at Yale University. Just 30 minutes reading a day – or three and a half hours a week if you prefer to snuggle down with a book for a super-indulgent session was enough to get results – it’s believed that reading boosts cell connectivity in the brain improving cognition in ways that might help us live longer.
- Reading protects your brain in old age: The more you read the lower your risk of cognitive decline as you get older. According to researchers reading is a brilliant way of keeping the brain active and stimulating neurogenesis that keeps it young.
- It’s a brilliant way to relax: In fact, just six minutes of reading was shown to reduce stress levels by researchers at Mindlab International at Sussex University. It seems that the mind wandering that occurs when we read, imaging what the characters look like, wondering where the story is going next – as well as focusing on the words on the page itself createsa brilliant distraction for thinking about your worries.
- Reading can trigger sleep: If you want to sleep well it’s a good idea to create what sleep scientists refer to as a bedtime ritual. This is a couple of tasks that you do every night before bed and that give your body a signal that it’s time for sleep. Reading is a brilliant thing to include within these rituals as it occupies the mind making it more likely to stop focusing on your worries and concerns. For best results though, use an actual book rather than an e-book. Light given off by some tablets and readers can be bright enough to suppress levels of the sleep hormone melatonin in the brain interfering with your ability to drop off.
If you like this post, you might also like the thing I wrote on Zen Doodling. It gives you another excuse to just sit and do something fun under the guise of improving your health.