4 Reasons Why Reading is Good for Your Health

When you can’t bask on the warm sugary sand of Maui, try reading a book. It will help reduce your stress according to a study. (KamaoleBeach, Maui, July 2014. Photo by Nina Fazzi.) When you’re too busy and you start scheduling such things as “eat lunch” and “meditate” on your Outlook calendar, you should probably include “read book” there, too. It’s good for your health.

If you must prioritize and schedule even basic activities, as I’ve been doing these past few weeks, there are four reasons why reading should be at the top of your list:

Reading Reduces Stress: A study by the University of Sussex shows that reading reduced the stress levels of participants by 68 percent. The busier I get, the more important reading becomes. For me, even just a half hour of reading before bedtime can make a big difference in reducing stress.

Reading Keeps Your Brain Healthy: A study by the University of California, Berkeley, shows that mentally stimulating activities such as reading and writing may help ward off Alzheimer’s disease. Research data suggests that a lifetime of engaging in those activities helps enormously.

Reading Increases Your Empathy: Can reading books make you nicer? Well, at least it increases your empathy, according to a study by researchers from VU University Amsterdam. Their experiment involved letting study participants read fiction by Arthur Conan Doyle or Jose Saramago for one week. Results show that those who were fully engaged and identified strongly with the main characters had higher empathy than those who weren’t emotionally affected by the books.

Reading Decreases Need for Cognitive Closure: It’s human nature to seek answers and dislike ambiguity. It’s called cognitive closure. A study by researchers from the University of Toronto shows that reading fictional short stories decreases one’s need for cognitive closure. It increases one’s tolerance for uncertainty. The effect was strong among study participants who were habitual readers.

If you love books, it’s more than enough reason to read. And when you’re really pressed for time and you’re debating whether to read a book or watch TV, remind yourself that reading is not only fun but also good for your health.