The Wellness Benefits of Reading

I could be wrong, but it seems like more people are experiencing their worlds through the short bursts of social media posts and fewer are investing in themselves with meaningful reading.

That’s a shame, and this week I want to show you why reading less could be holding you back from your best life.

Anyone who knows me knows that, if I don’t have my hands aren’t on a patient, I have my nose in a book (or a medical brief). One of my core principles of life is that I want to have the maximum impact on the world around me, and that requires me to constantly grow myself. If I want to be an effective leader, business owner, and family man, I have to seek out the people who have what I want and do what they do.

Not A Reader? Consider This.

Now, I realize that not everyone is as enthusiastic about reading as I am. Many children grow up without ever having an adult read to them, which is one of the most common ways parents can cultivate a love of reading into their children. Some people might associate reading with boredom or with a bad teacher. You might be one that thought reading was for “nerds” and you wanted to be seen as an athlete. I get it.

If you fit that description, I understand. It’s not your fault, but it also doesn’t change the fact that you are shortchanging yourself from a lifetime of enjoyment, wisdom, and good health. If anything, it just means you might have to work a little harder to overcome old mindsets and open yourself up to a world of benefits you haven’t recognized before.

Readers Are Leaders

When I look at people like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Elon Musk, one of the first things I see is that they attribute their enormous success to a daily habit of reading. President Teddy Roosevelt read a book every morning. The great minds that have shaped our civilization for thousands of years were constantly reading to engage their minds and learn the lessons of people who have gone before.

So, if I want to have a wide perspective, creativity, and the ability to communicate my message of wellness to as many people as possible, I have to be someone who reads.

In fact, I set a goal to read 150 books a year. Admittedly, that was extreme and I fell on my face. That’s three books a week, when I already work 70 to 80 hours a week. I’ve had to back it off, but I still plan to read one book a week. It’s that important to me to be the best I can be.

The Benefits of Reading

There are plenty of articles detailing the life benefits of reading. This is a wellness blog, and “Think Right” is only one part of what we cover here. So, I want to share just a few ways reading benefits your physical health.

A Healthy Brain

This year, I have been focusing on brain health, including things we can do to manage or even prevent dementia. Reading is one of the most powerful things you can do to keep your brain healthy. This exciting study from Rush University in Chicago might be enough to get even the most reluctant readers to run to the library.

Reading engages several parts of the brain at once, and builds connections between them. Stimulating your brain cells like this keeps them active and regenerating, which is an important key to long-term brain maintenance.

Settle Down With A Good Book

A study by Sussex University showed that reading could reduce stress by as much as 68%. Part of it is that, as you lose yourself in a story, it helps to separate you from the stresses of the day. They compared it to taking a walk, listening to music, playing video games, or having a cup of tea (it was England, after all). Of all these activities, reading had the largest and fastest effect on stress. They think it is because reading opens up your imagination into what can only be called “an altered state of consciousness.”

As we’ve explored here before, stress management is key part of wellness. Stress floods your body with negative neurotransmitters, which are intended to be used sparingly, in emergency situations, to get you to safety. You aren’t supposed to keep the stress faucets on all the time, but many of us do.

Reading – even for just a few minutes – has a calming effect on the whole body that allows you to regroup emotionally and release tension from your muscles, joints, and nerve endings. It can slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure.

Preparing To Sleep

I know I’m going to get some push-back on this, but reading a paper book is better for your body than reading on your phone, tablet, or other electronic device. The blue light from your video screens actually keeps you awake longer by confusing your brain’s release of melatonin. It has an effect similar to jet lag, where your Circadian Rhythms get thrown off.

If you haven’t already, you’re going to start seeing more articles about how using electronic devices at night is disrupting our sleep, leaving us sluggish and out of sorts throughout the next day.

Your best bet is to close Twitter at least an hour before bed, and open up a book. I know it’s hard to break a well-established habit, but in the long run it will help your mind and body sleep better, and you will enjoy the wellness benefits of good sleep.

Live Longer

As we talk here about longevity and protecting your brain, reading is an important part of both. I just read a study that linked reading books (not necessarily newspapers and magazines) with increased longevity.

The article in the New York Times said,

“Compared with those who did not read books, those who read for up to three and a half hours a week were 17 percent less likely to die over 12 years of follow-up, and those who read more than that were 23 percent less likely to die. Book readers lived an average of almost two years longer than those who did not read at all.”

I can’t argue with the research on this one. It goes along with the decreased stress, healthier brain, and better sleep. Longer life is a natural result of doing those things right.

Other Benefits

We could also talk about increased happiness and overall life satisfaction that readers enjoy, but I think I’d rather you found it out for yourself. Grab a book. It doesn’t matter what it is about, just see what happens when you lose yourself in reading.

I am thinking about putting together a reading list of the best books I’ve come across. Watch for it here on the new website over the next few months. If you’ve got a favorite book you want to recommend, put it in the comments on Facebook. Let’s challenge and encourage each other to be our best selves, and let’s start it with encouraging each other to read more.

I can’t wait to see what you recommend.

“At the end of your FEELINGS is NOTHING. At the end of your PRINCIPLES is a PROMISE.”Eric Thomas

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