In light of the stay-at-home and self-quarantine restrictions and guidelines in place across the nation, many people are finding themselves with free time on their hands. The frantic pace of life has slowed to a crawl for many, giving them time to pursue their hobbies, cook meals at home, or catch up on the Netflix watchlist. Reading hasn’t been a chart-topping favorite in many homes, but there are several health and wellness benefits that come from daily reading activities. Since you can’t head out to the club, bowling league, or the mall, you are just about out of excuses for why you can’t catch up on some reading.
Although your home won’t be as quiet as a library or pleasant as the coffee shop down the block, you can create an inviting space in your home that is worthy of literary travels. You could order delivery or get take-out of your favorite meal, brew some coffee, and settle into an easy chair, or you could draw a nice hot bath and soak away your stress with bubbles and great suspense novel. Even if you don’t have books on hand, there are many libraries that have entire sections of digital-access books, but iTunes and Amazon also have thousands of e-books. If you aren’t into books, there are plenty of digital access sites for popular magazines and national newspapers.
Researchers have found that the act of reading engages multiple signals in the brain and complex networks of circuits. The more you read, the stronger those networks become, increasing in sophistication. According to the studies, the longer the time spent in reading, the greater the increase in brain connectivity in the somatosensory cortex of the brain. This part of the brain is responsible for the response to the physical sensation of pain or movement. In addition to brain boosting and strengthening benefits, it also develops good communication skills and vocabulary. Here are several other reasons why you should take some extra time to catch up on reading.
When people read literary fiction (the stories that explore different characters and the inner struggles or experiences), the reader increased their ability to understand or react to the feelings or perspectives of others. This is often called the “theory of mind.” It is a skill set that involves understanding the emotions, beliefs, intentions, or knowledge of another person in a way that can be assessed and compared to one’s own corresponding state. These identification strategies are what help develop or navigate social relationships. Reading just one story isn’t going to have this effect, so choosing literary fiction several times a month can help you develop a better theory of mind.
When it comes to an impactful anti-aging protocol, reading is recommended by the National Institute on Aging to help prevent age-related cognitive decline. Though the research hasn’t been able to conclusively prove that reading is a preventative measure against diseases like dementia or Alzheimer’s, there have been studies that support daily reading corresponds to improved cognitive function in seniors. You can’t and shouldn’t wait until you get on up in years to start engaging the mind and hope for positive results. Those who engage in mentally stimulating activities for the majority of their lives have a reduced likelihood of developing lesions, plaques, and the tau-protein tangles that are generally found in the brains of those diagnosed with dementia.
These few weeks have been incredibly stressful for the country as a whole, and it seems that there will still be several weeks of challenges up ahead. Reducing your stress levels improves your overall quality of life, and reading has been shown to be as effective as yoga in lowering stress levels. With just 30 minutes of reading each day, you can lower your heart rate and your blood pressure as well as reduce the feeling of psychological distress. With the lack of opportunity to head out and about, 30 minutes is much easier to come by during the isolation period.
Even though you may feel like you are at home doing nothing, you still need a good night’s sleep to keep your physical and mental health up. Reading can help you relax before bedtime, as you are avoiding extra light from screens that stimulate the brain. A good night’s sleep can give you the mental clarity you need to face the next day.
For those needing something to do with all the extra time that isolation and social distancing brings, reading is a great option. There are many benefits to enjoying a good book, a news article, or a hobby magazine.
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