How reading affects your brain


More than a quarter -26 percent- of American adults admit to not having read even part of a book within the past year. That’s according to statistics coming out of the Pew Research Center. If you’re part of this group, know that science supports the idea that reading is good for you on several levels.

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” Joseph Addison penned this quote roughly 300 years ago, before modern science and research equipment could back up his claim. Today, however, scientific studies show that reading does make you smarter. Reading a novel, for example, increases the blood flow and improves connectivity in the brain.

A growing body of research indicates that reading literally changes your mind. Anna Sasine said that brain scans showed that throughout the reading period and for days afterward, brain connectivity increased, especially in the somatosensory cortex, the part of the brain that responds to physical sensations like movement and pain.

Lia Tabackman wrote that reading consistently strengthens connections in the brain, improves memory and concentration, and may even help you live longer.

Oberlo published 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?

Reading can also reduce stress levels and prevent age-related cognitive decline.

Reading also allows you to learn new things to help you succeed in your work/school and relationships.

When you read a well-written book will expose you to more words, and this will help you be a better communicator. Rather than just saying that you are sad or not in the mood to people, you can say you’re anxious, tired, irritated, frustrated, or weary. Increasing your vocabulary, communications skills, and being exposed to different writing styles will help improve your writing skills.

Reading can teach you historical politics, customs, cultures, economics, and intellect. Often these facts are set in a context of a story, making history easy to remember.

As you read, you put yourself in the characters’ shoes. Your brain goes beyond the words on the page, imagining details such as appearances, emotions, and surroundings. William Styron wrote, “A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading.

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.

Now that you understand the importance of reading books, how good it is for your brain and why you should read every day, what should you read?