Looking for an excuse to take some time for yourself and dive into a good book? Here are some scientific facts about why scheduling reading time is important not only for your emotional health but also your physical health.
READING IMPROVES YOUR LANGUAGE SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE OF THE WORLD.
Keith Stanovich and his colleagues conducted dozens of reading studies in the 1990's to assess the relationship between cognitive skills, vocabulary, factual knowledge, and exposure to certain fiction and nonfiction authors. They used the Author Recognition Test (ART), which is a strong predictor of reading skills. Stanovich found that avid readers averaged a 50 percent larger vocabulary and 50 percent more fact-based knowledge.
READING ENHANCES EMPATHY.
A 2013 Harvard studied a group of volunteers who read literary fiction, popular fiction, nonfiction, or nothing. Across five experiments, those who read literary fiction performed better on tasks like predicting how characters would act and identifying the emotion encoded in facial expressions. These speak to the ability to understand others' mental states, which scientists call Theory of Mind
READING BOOSTS CREATIVITY AND FLEXIBILITY
Maja Djikic from the University of Toronto conducted a study in which 100 people were assigned to read a fictional story or a nonfiction essay. The participants then completed questionnaires intended to assess their level of cognitive closure, which is the ability to reach a conclusion quickly and avoid ambiguity in the decision-making process. The fiction readers emerged as more flexible and creative than the essay readers—and the effect was strongest for people who read on a regular basis
READING REDUCES STRESS
University of Sussex scientists studied how different activities lowered stress by measuring heart rate and muscle tension. Reading a book or newspaper for just six minutes lowered people's stress levels by 68 percent—a stronger effect than going for a walk (42 percent), drinking a cup of tea or coffee (54 percent), or listening to music (61 percent). According to the authors, the ability to be fully immersed and distracted is what makes reading the perfect way to relieve stress.