By Marcus Lagercrantz
Reading books is great and all, but there’s more to it. It makes you more empathic, cures depression and, overall, a better person.
My first experiences of books I got from my parents reading to me. Every night, they were telling me amazing stories with only a book in their hand. Turning page after page. That inspired me to try to take part in these stories myself. When I started school, I discovered the library – a place of wonder. And that’s how everything began.
From the beginning, I was pretty bad at expressing myself in writing. Today I write more or less every day and would say I’m pretty good at it. At least in Swedish, my first language. I’m sure it’s my book reading that has improved things. My reading has not diminished over the years, rather the opposite and I always have a number of books going on. The fact that I ended up in the publishing world only increased my reading interest. Now, I have had and have the pleasure of working for a newspaper. It is an important job – being a journalist, but enough about me.
Reading books is a way to live many lives, there´s no better way to explain it. By reading, one expands one’s views and increases one’s understanding of the world, and other worlds for that matter. In addition, it´s actually only if one can read and write that one can become an active citizen of a democratic society and make his voice heard.
Although reading is great it’s not just pure pleasure. There are several scientifically proven benefits to it as well. Here come some examples.
- Itreduces stress,at least according to studies from the University of Sussex. It took just six minutes of silent reading to lower the stress levels by 68 per cent. In addition, the muscles were relaxed, and the heart rate lowered. Other ways to reduce stress were listening to music, drinking tea or walking, but nothing proved to be as effective as reading.
- It keeps the brain sharp.Research published in the scientific journal Neurology showed that people who devoted a lot of time to mentally demanding exercises, such as reading, had better memory later in life than those who had not read. The study was conducted on 294 participants who lived to the average age of 89. Participants who did not read or did other mental activities lost brain capacity of about48 per cent faster than those who were active.
- It can help you sleep better.Many sleep experts recommend that we establish a routine before going to bed. Reading is an activity that is usually mentioned as appropriate. But keep in mind that strong light from screens and other lights signals to your body that it´s appropriate to stay awake, so preferably read a regular book and not from a bright screen.
- It can make you more empathetic. A Dutch study found that people who read a fiction book and were emotionally included by it experienced an onset of empathy. In other words: let yourself be swallowed by the book, it’s good for you!
- It can reduce depression.When you are feeling down or even depressed, it can be difficult to see any joy in life. But studies have shown that self-help books, along with guidance, lowered levels of depression after a year, compared to those who underwent traditional treatment methods.
In other words, there are many great benefits to reading but most important of all, it´s a wonderful activity to have.