Reading More Will Greatly Improve Your Life
Honestly, when was the last time you read a book, or even a lengthy and substantial magazine article? There's nothing inherently wrong with gif-heavy listicles, Facebook updates and Tweets, but if these things make up most of your daily reading, then it's time to make a change. We need to read and we need to be readers now more than ever—because regular readers are more informed, less stressed and more empathetic than those who don't read. Books provide a specific type of insight; a life-guiding wisdom that helps you ask or answer life's big questions.
Think of it this way: your mind is a tool, and like all tools, it needs to be sharpened. And reading does just that. It's been scientifically proven that just like consistent cardio workouts improve your overall fitness, reading regularly strengthens memory function by boosting brain power. That's because reading is more demanding on the mind than processing images or talking. In short: it takes more concentration. "We are forced to construct, to produce narrative, to imagine," says Maryanne Wolf, director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University and author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. "Typically, when you read, you have more time to think. Reading gives you a unique pause button for comprehension."
Books are one of the few mediums that allow you to control the pace at which you experience it, allowing you to slow down, savor and ponder. It makes for the ideal respite from the relentlessness of technology. Because you don't passively read something—it takes engagement and concentration—you can reset and recharge without distraction. After all, within a five-minute span, you may be dividing your time between working on a task, checking social media and maybe chatting with someone (either in person or digitally). This type of hyper-connectivity creates an ADD-like behavior that raises stress levels and lowers our overall productivity.
But when you read a book, your attention becomes acutely focused on the story. Your stress levels are reduced by up to 68% and distractions tend to fall away as you become immersed in the details of a story. Try reading for just 15-20 minutes before work (ideal if your commute involves public transportation). You'll be surprised at how much more focused you are once you sit down at your desk. And you'll be able to relate to people better too. Literary fiction, specifically, has the power to improve your empathy because it helps readers understand what others are thinking by reading other people's emotions, according to research published in Science.
Now, whether you choose to read on an iPad (or an e-reader) or an old-fashioned paper book is matter of personal preference. But when it comes to actually remembering and retaining what you've just read, you're better off going with the dead-tree version than the digital equivalent. Wired examined the phenomenon and found that the feel of pages under one's fingertips isn't simply old-fashioned charm. It's a rich source of information that subconsciously informs the brain and leads to a deeper understanding and better comprehension of the subject you're reading about. Of course, we'd say whatever gets you to comfortably read more, the better. Here's what we're reading these days.