5 Ways Reading Can Improve Your Life
Reading chills you out
According to a study by the University of Sussex, reading for just six minutes will relax your mind by 68%.
It would be great to have the time for a long, hot bath; a yoga class or an evening in the pub with your mates, but if you’re stressed out, it’s probably because you don’t have time for these things as often as you’d like. But just a few minutes of reading could calm you down enough to sleep better and feel better every day. It’s also therapeutic. Reading can give your brain a break from whatever is worrying you, and reading about a similar problem in a novel can give you a new perspective on it – or at least give you hope for a happy ending.
You can dazzle friends, relatives and colleagues with your amazing knowledge of just about anything
Reading for just six minutes will relax your mind by 68%
I’ll admit it’s not often that knowledge of 1930s veterinary medicine as practised in the Yorkshire Dales comes in handy, but for me it has. Twice. The most unlikely books can impart facts; I’ve gleaned some lines of famous poems (and learned never to go showjumping with no pants on) from Jilly Cooper, a heck of a lot of world history and culture from all sorts of authors, some more, er, intellectual than others, and even how to build a log cabin from Little House on the Prairie. Then there’s maths theory, particle physics and wave functions. And these aren’t manuals or history books, they’re just reflections of the personal knowledge the author accrued either through their life or by researching their preferred period. They are just stories, but stories can teach you anything.
You’ll never be bored again
I can only think of one other form of completely free entertainment that’s as good fun as this, and unlike reading, it can't be done in public. There are loads of ways to get your hands on free reading materials: libraries are vaults of untold riches, out-of-copyright classics are widely available as free ebooks, and you can swap books with friends. No matter what your income is, you can always afford to read.
Books are also incredibly versatile. I don’t want to come home after a long day and sit down with The Brothers K, but I’d happily curl up with a thriller or a romance novel, the mental equivalent of a blockbuster film. For more serious, subtitled-independent-movie fare, you could always branch out into better literature when you’re more rested. Then there’s everything in between, the amazing books that steal you away and the ones you persevere with because they’re famous, the past-its-best series that is as comfortable as Eastenders.
It makes you smarter and more employable
Reading is pilates for the brain, stretching and strengthening your mind. Reading regularly has been linked to preventing Alzheimer’s disease and improving memory, and it can actually make you smarter – absorbing new information and making connections gets your synapses sparking. This trains your brain for learning new skills in the workplace or elsewhere. It also increases your attention span, so when you’re asked to read a report at work, you’ll be more likely to be able to sit and focus on it long enough to take it in and to retain the information. Reading widens your vocabulary and brushes up your writing skills, helping your job applications to stand out in a crowd and allowing you to tick the ‘good written communication skills’ box in job descriptions with confidence.
It can help you make friends
Reading helps you develop empathy and understanding, making you more likely to get on well with others. Novels model relationships, helping you recognise and respond to behaviour patterns. Not all books model good relationships (thinking of Twilight’s stalky ideas of romance), but the more you read, the more you start to identify the really good guys from the creeps. What’s more, a study by Northwestern University shows that women (and some men) rate intelligence really highly in potential romantic partners.
What are you waiting for? A book could transform your life!
Need some inspiration to get started? Check out our themed book lists for loads of ideas to suit any taste, and discover 8 easy ways to find reading time in your busy day.