If you have trouble concentrating, an inability to focus on the task at hand, or you’ve noticed your memory is not what it used to be, the solution could be no further away than your closest paperback. Put simply, the act of reading books has been linked to an improvement in concentration and other cognitive functions, particularly in those advancing in years.
Let’s take a look at the ways books can help you:
Reading Stimulates the Brain in Ways Other Activities Don’t
Much like your body, your brain needs exercise in the form of mental stimulation to stay strong. The more you use your “mental muscles,” the less likely that their capabilities will diminish. In fact, reading has been shown to be a vital activity in the battle against degenerative mental disorders like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. So, consider making reading a part of your overall daily workout plan!
Reading Reduces Stress Levels
Have you noticed that it’s much more difficult to think, solve a problem, or recall a specific memory when you’re stressed? That’s because a stressed brain is not a highly functioning brain. A stressed brain is often pulled in many directions. For example, you may become stressed if you haven’t found a sitter to watch the kids on your anniversary, you have a presentation to finish for work tomorrow, and you have nothing in the fridge with which to make dinner. Of course, all of these problems will need to be addressed in their own time, but they’ll all be more difficult if you attempt to solve them with an overloaded brain. Taking as little as a 10-minute reading break can focus your brain on one conscious activity, lower your stress levels, and allow you to tackle any issues in a calm and rational manner.
Reading Expands Vocabulary
If you’re worried you aren’t flexing your mental muscles enough, you can make a point of learning one or more new words a day. Many people do this as a way to increase their vocabulary, but learning several new words and their meanings will also give you the opportunity to exercise a part of your brain that often goes untested in adulthood: your hippocampus (a structure that is responsible for a variety of memory-specific functions). So while it’s great to want to add some new words to your arsenal just for the sake of it, know that this exercise is also quite good for your overall mental health.
Reading Regularly Will Boost Your Memory
At this point, you might be starting to see some commonalities appearing in this article and you’re right; the overall theme here is that reading is a good mental exercise that improves mental acuity. While hearing that might be enough to encourage many people to read more, others may need an extra nudge or a bit more context to start reading regularly. If that’s the case, consider this: Reading a fictional story requires you to memorize character names, backstories, plots, locations, and more. Avid readers will tell you that this kind of recall exercise isn’t a very common occurrence outside of reading, so picking up a book on a regular basis will go a long way to improving your memory.
Reading Increases Your Ability to Focus
If you find that you have a difficult time focusing, try to give yourself a bit of a break—you’re surrounded by all manners of stimuli day and night. If you’re worried about a diminished ability to focus and have the opportunity to put down your device and devote some time to reading a book, you may find that your ability to block out distractions will gradually improve. If throughout your day you’re finding it difficult to focus, grab the book you’re currently reading and read a chapter to narrow your field of concentration. You may find that after reading for 15 or 20 minutes, you can once again focus on the task at hand without having to reign in your thoughts.
Let’s not forget that for all its benefits to mental health, reading is also a pleasurable activity, so any time you have the opportunity to order books online you should seize it. If you’re already a fan of reading, continue to enjoy and push yourself to read even more. If, however, reading is not a hobby you’re used to actively pursuing, start by exploring the many different titles of fiction and non-fiction literature available; not only will you find a topic you enjoy reading about, you’ll also start benefiting from the many advantages associated with reading.