“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, oh the more places you’ll go.” — Dr Seuss
Between work, home, partners, children, keeping fit, cooking, calling friends and everything else that comes along with a busy life, it’s hard to fit any R&R into your day. When most of us imagine taking time for ourselves we think of yoga, a candlelit bath or a walk in the fresh air and while these would all be fine ways to enjoy the odd half-hour that we manage to get for ourselves, what we mostly end up doing is scrolling through social media, catching up on a TV show or clicking onto an online shop. Now there’s nothing wrong with any of those activities. But there is a better way to spend your time: Reading.
No matter how much of an avid reader you were before you had kids, it’s one of those things that gets pushed to the side once you get busy. Those night-time bottles and early mornings mean that once you get into bed sleeping is far more important than twenty minutes enjoying your book. Not only that, but when your phone is constantly within reach it’s much easier to grab that, instead of your novel when you’re enjoying your cup of tea. Yes most of us know that reading is good for us and we should be doing it more. But it’s not really top of mind for a lot of busy moms out there.
So we agree that reading is a good thing. But do we know just how good it is? For a pastime that asks for little financial input, doesn’t require you to leave your house and involves no sweating at all, reading packs a health punch that leaves other hobbies in the dust.
Reading is incredibly beneficial for your mental health. It has been proven to reduce stress just as effectively as yoga. When you read you are transported away from your worries and stresses and immersed in another world. It gives your brain a break and allows you to gain some distance from whatever is troubling you. For these reasons it has also been shown to alleviate depression, as British philosopher Sir Roger Scruton once wrote, “Consolation from imaginary things is not an imaginary consolation”.
Reading not only helps your mental health, but it also helps your brain’s physical health. Tests have shown that people who read regularly are less likely to suffer from age-related cognitive decline. A recent study has shown that reading can help to prevent the growth of plaques and legions that are found in the brains of dementia patients. Not only that, but readers actually live longer too. It has been shown that people who read for more than 3.5 hours a week are 23% more likely to live longer than those that don’t.
Did you know that people who read fiction regularly have been shown to be more empathetic than those that don’t? Seeing the world from a character’s point of view enables readers to better understand the motivations and emotions of people in real life. This ability is called “theory of mind” and those who are adept at it build, navigate and maintain better relationships with their friends, colleagues and family.
Sleep. What we all need more of! Earlier we mentioned that new parents tend to eschew reading in favour of getting to sleep earlier. But let’s face it, not many of us go to sleep the minute our head hits the pillow. Reading is a great way to switch off your brain and can be an important part of a healthy sleep schedule.
Reading makes you smarter. It’s that simple. It expands your mind, introduces you to new concepts and points of view, improves your vocabulary and broadens your general knowledge. A wider vocabulary has been shown to be vitally important to those who wish to succeed. It can influence your life in a huge amount of ways, from exams to interviews to management skills.
A 2019 poll conducted by Cengage showed that 69% of employers were looking to hire people with ‘soft skills’ which include the ability to communicate effectively. An increased vocabulary, enhanced empathy and broad general knowledge attained from reading are all traits that employers value, so reading books, whether fiction or non-fiction can only strengthen your career options.
What to read?
So we know that reading is a great thing. But does it matter what we read? The short answer is no. Read whatever takes your fancy, fiction, self-help, fantasy, advice. Reading of any kind is beneficial. What does make a difference is what we read on, although devices do make life easier (you can download a book instantly, you don’t need an overhead light and the books themselves are often cheaper), it has been shown that we retain more information and learn more from printed books. So while we’re not suggesting that your reading material should always be printed, it’s good to switch back and forth when possible.
Don’t forget the kids
Instilling a love of reading in your children is immeasurably beneficial. Reading with them, encouraging them to explore different types of stories and simply letting them see how much you enjoy reading will all help to grow their love of books, a gift that will stay with them throughout their lives.
Books are very much about personal choice. But if you’re looking for somewhere to start, here’s a list of classics that will educate, surprise and delight:
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Harry Potter by JK Rowling
- The Lord of the rings by JRR Tolkien
- The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
- Little Woman by Louisa May Alcott
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley