There are so many benefits to reading books.
But let’s face it: It can be challenging to motivate ourselves to read a 382-page book when we can watch the movie, listen to the audiobook, or watch a YouTube video summary instead.
Am I right?
However, if most of your daily reading consists of social media posts, text messages, and news headlines, you’re missing out.
So, what are the benefits of reading books?
If you’re interested in reading more books but need some motivation, this article’s for you. After all, when you understand the importance of reading books, you’re more likely to do it.
What Are the Benefits of Reading Books?
Here are 10 benefits of reading that illustrate the importance of reading books. When you read every day you:
- Gain valuable knowledge
- Exercise your brain
- Improve your focus
- Improve your memory
- Enjoy entertainment
- Improve your ability to empathize
- Improve your communication skills
- Reduce stress
- Improve your mental health
- Live longer
Now, let’s dive a little deeper to better understand the advantages of reading.
1. Gain Valuable Knowledge
One of the most obvious benefits of reading every day is learning.
And unlike a YouTube video or podcast, books provide access to in-depth knowledge. In other words, if you want to become more productive, which do you think you’ll learn more from:
- A book by someone who’s studied productivity for 20 years,
- Or a 10-minute YouTube video by someone interested in the topic?
Which do you think you’ll absorb more from? Which do you think is more likely to help change your habits? Books, of course!
Going beyond the surface of a subject is essential to success, too. This is probably why the author Roald Dahl once said, “If you are going to get anywhere in life, you have to read a lot of books.”
Plus, you can learn literally anything from books. For example, whenever anybody asks Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, how he learned to build rockets, he says, “I read books.”
So, what do you want to learn?
Perhaps you want to learn how to code, paint, or start a successful business? Maybe you want to learn how to stop procrastinating? Or perhaps you want to figure out how to change your life completely?
Whatever it is, reading can help.
2. Exercise Your Brain
Why is reading important? As the 17th century English writer Joseph Addison once wrote, “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”
So, what does reading do to your brain?
Research has confirmed that reading stimulates a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain. Plus, as you improve your reading ability, these networks become stronger and more sophisticated.
In another study, researchers measured how reading a novel affects our brains. The study’s participants read the novel “Pompeii” by Robert Harris, and as tension in the story developed, more areas of the brain were activated.
Want to know the best part?
The scans showed that brain connectivity increased while reading and for days afterward, demonstrating the enormous benefits of reading books every day.
Bottom line, our brains have a “use it or lose it” policy, just like our muscles. In other words, if we don’t exercise our minds regularly, our cognitive abilities may decline. However, when we read every day, we can keep them strong and healthy.
3. Improve Your Focus
Being able to concentrate and focus for long periods is essential to our success and wellbeing. Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work, writes:
“To remain valuable in our economy … you must master the art of quickly learning complicated things. This task requires deep work.”
What is “deep work”? Newport explains:
“Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It’s a skill that allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. Deep work will make you better at what you do and provide the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftsmanship.”
Newport also argues that this skill is becoming increasingly rare due to constant multitasking, notifications, and social media apps. A study by Microsoft would agree, finding that people generally lose attention after just eight seconds.
Thankfully, one of the key benefits of reading is that it helps you practice concentrating on just one thing at a time.
For example, a novel requires all of your attention for it to whisk you away to another world. And if you want to learn from a non-fiction book, it requires you to be fully present and engaged.
In short, if you want to succeed, you need to focus. And if you want to focus more, you can practice by reading books.
4. Improve Your Memory
Are you always forgetting things? Do you have a bunch of to-do lists, but you can’t quite remember what’s on them? Fear not – one of the advantages of reading books is that it can improve your memory.
When you read a non-fiction book, you also consume an enormous amount of information on the subject you’re reading about.
Similarly, whenever you read a novel, you have to remember tons of information about the story’s plot and subplots, the characters and their relationships, and the environment in which the story takes place.
That’s a lot of information!
All of this new information creates new memories. And every new memory creates synapses or strengthens old ones.
The upshot? Reading every day can improve your memory – it can help you learn how to store new information and recall memories more effectively.
5. Enjoy Entertainment
Books provide some of the most engaging entertainment on the planet. As the author Stephen King said, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
Have you ever read a book that you couldn’t put down?
Do you remember feeling so invested in the story or what you were learning that you would keep reading even when you needed to use the bathroom or were hungry?
To replicate that feeling, or to experience it for the first time, all you need to do is find the right books to read.
There are millions of incredible books out there, and there’s a perfect reading genre for everyone – from fantasy novels and classical literature to self-help guides and business books.
Plus, with the world still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic recession, there’s no better time to take up reading as a hobby.
Reading is something you can enjoy safely at home. And books don’t cost that much – especially with services like your local library and Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited ($9.99 per month for unlimited ebooks).
So, step away from your smartphone each day, open the pages of a book, and dive in.
6. Improve Your Ability to Empathize
Another one of the benefits of reading books is that they can improve our ability to empathize with others. And empathy has many benefits – it can reduce stress, improve our relationships, and inform our moral compasses.
Research has shown that long-term fiction readers tend to develop a better “theory of mind” – the term used to describe our capacity for empathy and ability to understand others.
Another study found that when we read stories that explore characters’ inner lives and emotions, our ability to understand others’ feelings and views improves.
For example, experiencing the world through the eyes of Harry Potter or Jane Eyre can help us learn to see the world from the perspectives of our families, friends, and coworkers.
The author John Green said it best: “Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.”
7. Improve Your Communication Skills
The ability to communicate effectively is a vital life skill.
In fact, one study discovered that 69% of employers are looking to hire people with “soft” skills, such as effective communication.
The good news? One of the key benefits of reading is that it helps us to communicate better.
How? Reading every day can improve our communication skills in a few ways. For example, reading can influence your writing and increase your vocabulary.
When we read well-written work, we naturally observe its writing style, cadence, and composition. These characteristics inevitably seep into our writing, in the same way that musicians are influenced by each other.
What’s more, studies show that those who read regularly tend to develop large vocabularies.
Finally, don’t forget that reading also helps improve our communication skills by increasing our ability to empathize and understand others.
Long story short? Read more, communicate better, and improve your life!
8. Reduce Stress
Another one of the effects of reading is that it can reduce stress.
Research has proven that just 30 minutes of reading can lower your blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of psychological distress.
Another study discovered that reading is the best way to reduce stress – compared to taking a walk, having a cup of tea or coffee, and playing video games. The study found that even six minutes of reading can be enough to reduce stress levels by more than two-thirds.
“Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation,” said Dr. David Lewis, the cognitive neuropsychologist who conducted the study.
So, the next time you’re feeling stressed, remember the benefits of reading for pleasure and let the tension melt away.
9. Improve Your Mental Health
The pros of reading also extend to mental health.
Researchers studied the effects of self-help books and found that many have a measurable impact on depression or other mood disorders.
As a result, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) began a book prescription program called Reading Well. This service prescribes self-help books curated by medical experts for certain conditions.
The act of using books as therapy is called “bibliotherapy.”
So, if you’re struggling – and despite what life looks like on Instagram, we all struggle from time to time – consider reading one of the books on the NHS’s curated list, which are proven to help ease symptoms.
10. Live Longer
This last effect of reading is perhaps one of the most exciting and interesting: It turns out that the health benefits of reading can help us live longer.
A 12-year study on health and retirement found that those who read books survived around two years longer than those who didn’t read books or read magazines and other forms of media. Additionally, those who read for 30 minutes a day (3.5 hours per week) were 23% more likely to outlive those who didn’t read often.
Pretty cool, right?
As noted above, reading is a great way to exercise our brains to make us smarter and sharper. However, the knock-on effect of this is that reading also helps prevent age-related cognitive decline.
One study found that older adults who regularly read or play mentally challenging games like chess are two and a half times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
On the other hand, people who don’t exercise their grey matter stand a chance of losing brain power, says the study’s primary author, Dr. Robert Freidland.
No wonder the US’s National Institute on Aging recommends champions the health benefits of reading daily.
All in all, when you read every day, you’re more likely to retain your mental abilities and live longer!