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The health benefits of reading

Grade 6 pupils reading. Photographer: Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency (ANA)

Grade 6 pupils reading. Photographer: Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 27, 2023



Reading means dedicating oneself to rising above the ordinary. As I prepare to write this article, a familiar quote comes to mind; “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.”

Across the globe, the most successful people are high-volume readers from business and political leaders to celebrities and regular individuals. Studies have shown that these lifelong learners attribute reading skills to their success. Yet, many people under a false illusion believe that success is due to fortune, luck or circumstance.

Reading is at the heart of the learning curriculum, the building blocks to an extraordinary lifestyle. As we let go of the emotional and mental chatter existing in the real world, we appreciate the reading which enables us to feel what the characters in a story feel. We realise in the real world we do not have to wait for a fairy godmother to come along and magically solve our issues, we rescue ourselves.

Reading fairy tales sparks the child’s imagination, children learn from their mistakes. Reading polishes critical thinking by preparing children to assess their own emotions, reasoning and decision-making. A life lesson taken from Little Red Riding Hood, by mistaking a wolf for her grandmother suggests first appearances may sometimes deceive but the intelligence of some will recognise what has been carefully hidden.

Modern studies show that IQ (Intelligence Quotient) levels increase as reading widens vocabulary and comprehension. Reading a minimum of 20 minutes a day exposes children to 1.8 million vocabulary words a year. Research shows that reading children’s books results in higher scores on all of children’s IQ tests. Plus, stronger early reading means greater intelligence later in the child’s life.

What happens to your brain when you read? Reading makes it possible for the brain to stop, analyse and process information. This heightened mental activity helps you remember with ease. Brain activity increases through the reading and analysis of all letters, words, and sentences, combining them into a story.

Reading does not promise that you remember everything read, you remember relevant information that helps to sharpen your brain to make intelligent decisions. However, the purpose of reading is not to see how many books you can get through but how much can get through to you.

What happens when you read on a daily basis? Daily reading contributes to a healthy brain throughout life. Research indicates that book readers live almost 2 years longer. Reading can be done as a hobby or an interest in pursuing higher education that demands higher levels of concentration. While some daily readers read for pleasure, entertainment and relaxation. Studies found that during this reading process, readers develop analytical and critical skills that have been associated with a lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Reading may be therapeutic, if you are experiencing a break-up or if you want to improve an existing relationship – reading can give you alternate insights into managing challenges. Make use of Self-Help books. Reading books about life’s challenges will help answer the more intriguing questions – Why, What, Who, Which, When and How? You interpret yourself and the world more positively and become inspired to make better choices and take more positive actions, building your self-worth.

What makes reading good for you? Reading has a positive impact on our mental well-being. Improves sleep, helps those with insomnia, reduces stress levels, uplifts our mood, lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and fights depressive symptoms.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that health literacy is critical because reading health information prepares people to deal with health problems more effectively. Reading throughout a lifetime means stronger memory skills and mental capabilities at all stages down the road.

Studies explain that reading gives your brain a workout, like building muscle memory while you run. Reading not only crams facts into your brain, but it’s a way to rewire how your brain works to strengthen your ability to think through complex problems. Our lives are enriched by new insights, challenging us to create personal projects which rocket our growth.

Get motivated to read regularly, and a relaxing environment will add tranquility to the reading experience. Remember to carry a book when you leave home, join a book club, subscribe to a local library or research books that spark your interest.

Sources through the web highlight that reading is one of the best habits you can develop to achieve success. You may find it difficult at first, but reading becomes a great investment where you can magnify your creativity, productivity, positive self-image and abilities with commitment.

A book has the power to take you to other realms, using magical imagination, filling your mind with positivity, pulling us into an abstract world in which we easily forget our reality – at times could just be the escape you need! Open a book today – be this extraordinary leader tomorrow!

Anolene Thangavelu Pillay is a Psychology Advisor. Supplied

Anolene Thangavelu Pillay is a Psychology Advisor.

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