Updated June 2021
I wasn’t passionate about reading until after I graduated college.
Growing up, I read because my teachers told me I needed to read. It wasn’t until I became an adult with a real job that everything changed. A two hour plus commute can do that to you, but no matter the reason, I began to read, read and read some more. Once I was hooked, it was a wrap.
My reading interests vary. I stick to non-fiction for the most part, but do find fiction to be a nice change from time to time. I like ancient texts, to the occasion modern self-help genre. I’m also never afraid to “quit” a book if I find myself disinterested (it’s okay)!
We are faced with endless ways to distract ourselves; never in human history have there been more ways to waste time. We like easy things, so naturally, social media, cable news, blogs and streaming dominate our lives. Everything has been designed with one goal: get our attention and KEEP it.
We still read, but not often. According to the Pew Research Center, 78% of adults have read at least one book in 2013 and the average amount of books read in a year was five. We have made huge progress globally, but illiteracy remains the most destructive issue children face today. There is simply no hope for success as an adult without a strong basis in reading. Even in the Untied States, reading statistics among children are a disaster. Our government needs to do a better job of teaching and promoting reading. They have failed us all.
Why Should We Read?
The benefits of reading are vast.
We discover new ways to solve problems and think of the world. Creativity is enhanced, and we are able to transport ourselves to a distant land or a past event. We have the power (a true superpower) to dissect the lives of individuals who have gone before us, gaining insight into their way of thinking and problem solving process. We can skip all the mistakes they made and jump right into what works.
Reading saves us precious time by avoiding decisions and projects with a low chance of success. I take notes when I read to internalize the most important points the author is trying to express. By interacting with the text, and filing away my notes, I am able to reap the benefits long after I complete a book.
#1: A lifetime of learning
Reading exposes us new ideas and beliefs. We might not realize it, but reading changes us, particularly the ways in which we think. It alters how we see the world around us and impacts the decisions we make.
Reading also helps us in our conversations with others. It allows us to meet a wide variety of people and always have something to talk about. You’ll be able to comfortably converse with individuals from all sorts of backgrounds because of the wisdom gained through books. Even if it feels like you forget what you read, remember that you don’t. Subconsciously, we retain the big ideas we come across and it shapes our conversations and actions for years to come.
The vast majority of adults today are boring. The reason tends to be lack of reading. We only have so many things to talk about, usually vague and surface level, and then we have nothing. Well read individuals can pivot to many topics, probing until they captivate their conversation mate.
#2: Less Stress
According to a 2009 study by the University of Sussex, reading for as little as 6 minutes can help reduce stress up to 68%.
It goes without saying, but reading is a much more effective medium for stress reduction than watching TV, scrolling through social media or playing video games.
Dr. David Lewis, a French-born neuropsychologist who ran the study stated:
“Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation. This is particularly poignant in uncertain economic times when we are all craving a certain amount of escapism. It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination.”
I’ve used books as a way to quickly “level up” in life, absorbing the wisdom from giants of the past.
Reading allows us to fully realize the extent of the human body and mind. We realize how far we actually can push ourselves by learning, growing and sharpening our beliefs. History teaches us to be grateful for what we have. Many books I have read involve someone who has persevered against the odds, often coming from a poor background.
When we think there is no hope, reading makes us realize that people have overcome much worse and gone on to do great things. We gain empathy.
Take cold weather. Most of us hate the cold and complain when the temperature dips into freezing territory.
I enjoy war books and have read extensively about battles on the Eastern front in World War II between Nazi and Soviet forces. Battles were brutal and often fought in temperatures that dipped below -20 degrees. I think of these stories when I want to complain about how “bad” I have it. .
Reading is the #1 way to improve ourselves. There is no question. And it certainly is the cheapest of all the options out there.
The benefits include:
- Enhanced analytical skills
- Improved writing skills
- Positive feelings and emotions
- Internalization of unique writing styles and words
- Decrease of negative thoughts
- Actionable advice, especially if we are going through the same issues as the author or main character.
#5: Exercising the Mind
Are you doing everything you can to keep your mind sharp as you age?
We can’t control every aspect of how we age, but we definitely can do certain things to help. A lifetime of reading can lead to slower memory loss and can also help us to avoid cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. The mental stimulation offered by reading can greatly help in keeping our brains in tip-top shape until the end of our lives.
Read, read, read.
Put down the phone and stop wasting time on Facebook and Instagram.
Ditch the remote.
Stop blowing money on material possessions you don’t need.
Grab a book or two for a fraction of the cost and reap the vast rewards they offer.
You won’t regret it.