BY MAX MCAULIFF, WRITER
Many people have a reading phase at some point in their lives. This phase can occur as a young adult when the freedom to finally read on your own becomes truly accessible to people. Popular young adult series include Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Percy Jackson and Twilight. These series may be the first time readers are exposed to feelings of adventure, love, betrayal, or loss. Books help open the minds of young adults to the endless possibilities of the world.
However, young adults aren’t the only people who can benefit from finding alone time during the day to sit down and read a nice book. Adults of all ages, from college students to seniors, can benefit from taking the time to read. Reading not only cuts people off from the rest of the world, it also stimulates the mind and offers benefits rarely imagined.
In an article published on Healthline in 2019, eight different benefits of reading were medically reviewed and listed in the article. Benefits include strengthening the brain, increasing empathy, building vocabulary, preventing cognitive decline, reducing stress, improving sleep, relieving depression, and extending lifespan of life. While some benefits are more obvious than others, such as brain strengthening and vocabulary building, others are more unexpected.
The heightened empathy is surprising and stems from readers exploring the inner lives of the characters, giving them a heightened ability to understand the feelings and beliefs of others. Increased empathy is important for building, fostering and maintaining any type of relationship.
Preventing age-related cognitive decline is another surprising benefit of reading. Research shows that although reading does not prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, older people who read and solve math problems every day maintain and improve their cognitive functioning as they age. People who have engaged in mentally stimulating activities all their life, such as reading, are less likely to develop symptoms of dementia. A student reading today could benefit from that reading 50 years from now.
Helping relieve symptoms of depression is the final benefit that is surprising, but not completely unexpected. Reading relieves stress and stimulates brain activity, which will help alleviate symptoms of depression. Reading books can also help people who feel isolated and alone to escape the world and ground themselves in an imaginary experience that is far different from their own. Health professionals in the UK have even started prescribing books specifically to help people learn to manage their symptoms of depression.
Taking the time to read something other than a textbook can have lifelong benefits for a person for years. There are no limits to which one should stick to a book that will provide the eight benefits listed above. If you’re interested in Harry Potter’s years at Hogwarts, get yourself a Harry Potter book. More interested in the Great Recession of 2008, so grab and read The Big Short. Books open fantastic worlds to people while providing many mental and physical benefits.