May is less than a week away. It is dubbed Mental Health Awareness Month, which has me thinking about all the ways to keep the mind active and fit, the same way we would our bodies. The brain is a muscle, just like everything else.
Recently, I’ve been making a conscious effort to read every day — turning the page of an actual book, newspaper, etc. In the short time since this lifestyle adjustment, I’ve noticed two key changes: I’ve become more articulate, picking up on words I’d have otherwise forgotten, and I’ve become slightly more in tune with my emotions. So, how else can reading improve health?
Reading Reduces Stress.
Reading requires concentration, unlike other stress relieving activities such as listening to music, exercise, or drinking tea. By immersing oneself in a literary piece, the mind blocks out distractions, thereby easing tension in the heart. The University of Sussex conducted a study in 2009 revealing that reading has the power to reduce stress by up to 60 percent.
Reading Maintains Sharpness.
It should come as no surprise that reading has the power to sharpen the mind. It is directly connected to memory, which can strengthen our minds and reduce their deterioration as we age.
Reading Makes You More Empathetic.
Reading fiction causes us to envision a new world and new characters. When that world becomes one we would imagine participating in, suddenly, we envision ourselves in the characters’ shoes.
That association aids in understanding and empathy, thereby enhancing fundamental social relationships, as discovered by psychologists David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano from the New School for Social Research in New York.
When I read, I prefer paperbacks over eBooks; the physical act of turning a page feels like a time-old tradition of the greats. Most important, I like owning books so I can highlight in them, underlining words I’m unfamiliar with and quotes that I feel connected to and want to remember. Apparently, I’m doing my mind and soul some good!