Technology has come so far over the years; it’s almost a challenge to think of life before smartphones, connected devices, and streaming services. We don’t need to hail a cab because Uber will do that for us, and E-commerce ensures we can embark on a day-long shopping spree without ever stepping foot in a store.
However, there’s one task that’s stood the test of time: curling up with a good book. Sure, that book may be on a tablet, but you can still lose yourself in a story.
The benefits of reading are both physical and mental. Research has shown that reading makes your brain stronger and protects against cognitive decline (like Alzheimer’s). What’s more, it helps you empathize and decreases stress, heart rate, and blood pressure.
Whether you’re a bookworm or haven’t cracked open a novel in years, here are a few of the best ways to get the most out of this activity.
There’s plenty of reading material out there, from thrillers and romance novels to newspapers and blogs. However, you may wonder: Is non-fiction going to make me smarter than fiction? Will I feel less stressed if I choose to read a cooking blog, or should I opt for a novel about a beach vacation?
The truth is there’s no hard-and-fast answer. When reading for fun, the best advice we have is to keep it, well, pleasurable. Choose something that makes you happy and that you enjoy. Some enjoy the sprawling texts of Emily Brontë, but they aren’t for everyone. Find a topic you’re interested in, and we bet there’s a novel, short story, blog, or graphic novel to match.
However, as easy and accessible as reading material may be these days, you may want to consider opting for an old-fashioned hard copy or actual newspaper. People who read print books consistently score higher on comprehension tests than those who take in the same content in digital form, studies show. It can also give your eyes a break from the damaging blue light of your phone or tablet screen.
So we know reading is important, but do we need to finish a new book every week in order to reap the benefits? Scientists say no. One study showed that people who read about 30 minutes per day lived longer than people who didn’t read at all. However, consistency is key — researchers conducted the study over a 12-year period, so you likely won’t reap the benefits from just a few days hitting the books.
A caveat here: Try your best. Life happens. You may miss a day here or there. The key is to try to set aside time to read and enjoy yourself, not give yourself another torturous item for your to-do list.
Perhaps you commute to work on a bus or train and read the paper each morning. Or, maybe you prefer to curl up with a good book before bedtime as a way to unwind. Is one better than the other?
We may be able to learn a thing or two from when people learn best. According to scientists, our brains go into “acquisition mode” between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and again between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m., making them the best times of day to learn. Experts also say that the worst time to learn something new is 4 a.m. to 7 a.m, so you might find yourself struggling to pay attention at these times.
At the end of the day, we all have our preferences. Regardless of what time you pick up or put down your reading materials, it will still deliver its range of benefits. One thing to keep in mind: If you’re reading before bed, ditch the phone or tablet and opt for a physical book, magazine, or newspaper. Electronics can reduce sleep quality.
Long story short, your grade school teachers were right. Reading can do wonders for your mental and physical health, and you can learn a lot along the way. Regardless of the genre, length, or medium, relieve stress and unplug by sticking your nose into a book (or blog) every so often. Not sure where to start? Reach out to an associate at a book store or the librarian at your local public library. They are always happy to share their advice and recommendations with anyone looking to expand their reading list.
BlissMark provides information regarding health, wellness, and beauty. The information within this article is not intended to be medical advice. Before starting any diet or exercise routine, consult your physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, the United States Health & Human Services department has a free online tool that can help you locate a clinic in your area. We are not medical professionals, have not verified or vetted any programs, and in no way intend our content to be anything more than informative and inspiring.
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