Maybe you’re like me and you’ve never really been a “reader” or maybe you’re like my sister and your favorite pastime is tearing through a novel in one afternoon. I recently began picking up more books as a form of self-care and although I can’t read as fast as my sister, I do still enjoy the mental and physical benefits of reading a good book. Research has shown that reading books  can have some serious benefits on your cognition. Here’s how…

Reading is like a workout for your brain. 

Research has shown that reading involves lots of brain activity and therefore strengthens the connections and networks in your brain. As you read your brain begins to get stronger.. think of your brain as a muscle and the book as your weight. The more you read the more “mature” and “strong” your brain will become. 

Reading reduces stress. 

Some people use reading as a form of self-care, and rightfully so because research exists to back this theory up! A study done in 2013 showed that 30 minutes of reading lowered blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of psychological distress just as effectively as yoga and humor did. This is another reason why so many people read before bed. This practice can help reduce stress right before bed and help you “wind down” for a good night’s rest. 

Reading increases your ability to empathize with others. 

Just like reading is a workout for your brain, it can also be a workout for your emotions. Have you ever been so enthralled in a book that you begin to feel what the characters are feeling? (If so, you know you’ve found a good book). One study proved that long term readers of fiction had a higher ability to “mentalize” aka the ability to understand the mental state of oneself or others. 

So next time you’re in need of some “me” time or you want to engage in a self-care practice, try picking up a good book and allow yourself to get lost in the pages.

– Rachael Trivette