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Discover the Advantages of Reading for Mental Health and Wellness

September 1, 2022

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Reading is a unique pastime that can effectively transport a person to other places, times and even worlds. Reading may be a lifelong passion for some, while others may have taken to it after retirement when their schedule became more flexible. Whatever the case, there are many advantages of reading that contribute to mental health and wellness.

September is “Read a New Book Month,” and our team at Franciscan Ministries is celebrating by sharing some of the benefits of reading.

The Mental Advantages of Reading

Enhances Memory

Reading stimulates the brain and keeps it active, which allows it to retain its power and capacity. Mental Health First Aid England shared the results of a study that “found that the rate of mental decline was reduced by 32% when people participated in reading, writing, and other activities later in life.”

When you read a novel or book, you are immersed in that world. For the story to make sense, you must remember key details, plot points, and other elements that move the story along. If you read the words on the page without processing what they meant, you would get to the end of the book and not know what it was about or what happened.

Basically, reading exercises your short-term memory and your ability to recall everyday details and events.

Reduces Stress

Although stress can sometimes be a good thing, too much stress, or chronic stress, can negatively affect our mental and physical health. Of course, we all experience stress from time to time and need a healthy way to decompress. Reading can help with that.

Reading gives you that mental space to occupy yourself with something more interesting. Whether it is a novel or non-fiction book, reading allows you to get lost in the story and serves as a distraction from stressors that are present in your life. According to Kumon, “a 2009 study by the University of Sussex found that reading for just six minutes can actually reduce stress levels by up to 68%.”

Improves Sleep

Because reading is an effective way to reduce stress and relax, it can also help you get a better night’s sleep. By implementing reading into your nightly routine, you are decompressing and preparing your mind and body for rest.

Additionally, if you do this consistently, reading at bedtime will signal your body that it is time to sleep and make falling asleep easier.

Increases Empathy and Emotional Intelligence

Healthline states, “research has shown that people who read literary fiction – stories that explore the inner lives of characters – show a heightened ability to understand the feelings and beliefs of others.”

When we observe how other individuals react to one another, we learn how to do so ourselves. This is one of the reasons why socialization is so important, but you can also achieve this through reading.

Even though many of the characters we read about and observe are fiction, they are based on real human relationships. Reading about three-dimensional characters and observing how they react to certain situations and interact with one another can be directly translated into everyday life. This is what makes a good novel engaging.

Modifying How You Read

As we age, it is common to experience changes to our health, such as vision issues or arthritis, that make reading in a traditional manner more challenging. However, you can still reap the benefits and advantages of reading.

A few adaptive reading tools include:

  • Large print books
  • Magnifiers
  • Book holders
  • E-reading devices
  • Audiobooks

Not only is reading beneficial to your mental health and wellness, but it is also an enjoyable hobby for many. Additionally, it presents opportunities for you to meet other people and socialize, such as through a senior living community’s book club.

By moving to a senior living community, you could also gain opportunities to connect and engage with others while participating in activities you enjoy. As a bonus, you would benefit from a supportive, maintenance-free lifestyle.

If you would like to learn more about Franciscan Ministries and our senior living communities, we invite you to visit our website or contact a member of our team.