By Corey Lewis, CPT, CSCS
What seems like a dying hobby might actually make a resurgence during the lockdown. Reading a book hasn’t been quite the same ever since the dawn of digital media. When was the last time you actually picked up a book, or even a newspaper? There are many great benefits of reading a book over reading online.
Many people find that the physical touch of books inspires more creativity and helps them retain more information. This article will explore the many benefits of picking up a book, and how it improves mental wellness.
In today’s hectic world, there are a million thoughts darting through your mind, especially with the current pandemic. This actually eats away at your productivity by taking up cognitive resources. As a result, reducing stress and promoting mental wellness have become top priorities.
Reading helps by letting you “unplug” from the chaos in the world—you’re just left with a book and its contents. On the other hand, if you try reading something online, chances are you will be bombarded by a dozen unrelated notifications or messages. Hence, reading a physical book or magazine benefits you by helping you to focus on just one thing and reduce wandering thoughts.
In a way, this is similar to meditation. The goal is the same–to improve mental clarity and focus. Similarly, reading helps improve your attention span by reducing your tendency to drift away to unrelated, unproductive thoughts. Your mind will no longer be clouded by them, and you will achieve better mental clarity.
People are often so concerned about physical wellness that they forget about their mental wellness. What is wellness, anyway? Wellness encompasses many different areas of a person’s life, as shown by this wellness wheel. There are categories like financial, social, spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical wellness.
The benefits of reading fall into the intellectual wellness part, where the mind is actively stimulated and challenged with new information. Just like how you challenge your body with extra weights, your mind also needs to be exercised with cognitive challenges.
Apart from intellectual wellness, there are other ways that reading helps with mental and emotional wellness. As mentioned in the last section, reading helps to contain your flurry or unproductive thoughts. These types of thoughts may be the cause of a lot of stress, anxiety, and sleep problems.
Always worried and overthinking? Everyone’s been there at some point. Reading helps to recuperate and recharge your mind so you can start the next day with a fresh, clear mind. It helps a lot with stress reduction by reducing all the noise in the mind.
Here is a video of Dr. Vivienne Smith from the University of Strathclyde talking about the benefits of reading for your wellbeing:
Another obvious advantage of reading is an increased intellectual capacity. Every bit of additional information you gain from reading will be incorporated into your existing web of knowledge.
Reading isn’t just reading. Your brain has to process all this information effectively and retain it. Over time, you can increase your ability to retain more information and process new information more effectively. You can become better at the process of learning itself.
If you’re reading print media, you are also engaging more senses, such as vision and touch. You engage more parts of your brain and create more neural networks. This is what helps people retain more information than they would by reading online content.
The most obvious way that reading benefits your wellness is by allowing you to learn new things. You don’t always have to read an exciting novel every night! You can try out a topic that you’ve always wanted to improve your knowledge in. Whether it’s to do with your professional life, self-help topics, or even a niche topic like interior design, books are the way to go.
Have you always wanted to learn business concepts or new ways to improve your career? You’re bound to find a book for that! Check out these best business startup books to hone your entrepreneurship skills and learn about productivity.
There are several ways you can incorporate reading into your life. Try reducing your screen time before bed by picking up a book instead. You could even try it in the morning as part of your morning ritual after waking up. As it is similar to meditation, reading can jumpstart your day by providing you with a clearer mind.
Ideally, it is better to read a physical book where you can smell and touch the pages to engage your senses, instead of reading content on a digital device. This seems to help people retain more information. However, if reading on an e-reader or tablet is effective for you, there is nothing stopping you from reaping the benefits of reading. Just ensure you won’t be plagued by random notifications or other distractions halfway through.
Reading is just one of the many ways you can improve mental wellness. You could also try other helpful practices, such as journaling and working out.
Journaling for mental health is a great tool to help process difficult emotions and events. With the uncertainty and difficulties brought about by the pandemic, mental health care has never been more important.
If you love being active, morning workouts could also help with mental wellness. Physical exercise has significant benefits for cognitive health. It triggers the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, which are responsible for improving mood and emotional wellbeing.
The bottom line is to prioritize your mental wellness as well as physical wellness. Without the former, it is much harder to achieve the latter. Mental and physical wellness can help you stay motivated and optimistic at a time that you need it the most.