I had one professor in college who would tell us every semester how important it is to read. He told us about how when he was in college he would read every single textbook for every class, even if only a few chapters were discussed. He was someone I always looked up to, partly because he was the only Doctor I had teaching any of my classes, partly because he knew so much about things outside the subjects he taught.
Before I took his class I would read every once in a while. I had some books I would take with me on the bus when I went some places. But after that one professor told us about reading I would read every time I was on a bus and most times when I would walk places.
According to him, all you need to do is read something for an hour every day, though I’ve seen people saying that even just a half hour can show benefits. Back when I didn’t have as many responsibilities, I would read at least 4 hours every day. But that was mostly because I didn’t have a vehicle so I took the bus or walked everywhere.
What Are The Benefits?
The big catch all answer that all the other will relate back to is healthy functioning of the brain. I don’t have any particular order that I put these things in because they all can relate to each other.
The one thing my professor always said was the best benefit from reading the delay of Alzheimer’s. If you keep your brain active, it will remain stronger for longer. He always used to say, “I know in thirty years my memory will be perfect,” and I believe him. He was an older guy back then but sharp as a tack. I have no doubt that he’s doing just as well now because he always finds time for reading.
Reading can also strengthen analytical skills. Just like with any muscle in your body, if you actively use your brain, it will get stronger. If it is stronger, it will be able to make connections between things quicker. That will help when it comes to problem solving and decision making.
Another thing reading can do is help motivate you. This is something I can really relate to. As I said in my first post, I love hearing what other people have to share and living their experiences through them. Reading the blogs of others is what motivated me to finally start my own.
Reading has also motivated me to trying out tons of other things like hobbies and DIY home improvement. Many of the things I’ve had to do with my house and vehicles are things I had to learn how to do by myself and if I hadn’t been able to find so much information in books and on websites with details I never would have had the motivation to try any of it myself.
Reading can also help improve empathy. Since many of the things people are reading are about other people, both fictional and real, they can help you experience things you may never have the opportunity to any other way. Some people may never know the excitement of ziplining through a forest, or finding out they or their significant other is expecting a child. And some may never know the fear of not knowing how close the gunfire outside their bedroom is, or the crashing weight of the sudden complete disconnect of emotions from learning of the loss of a child.
Reading the stories of other and putting yourself in their shoes can help you better understand what they are going through and help you through a similar situation if you ever find yourself in it. It can help motivate people to help others, with a better understanding of how and why they should be helped. And it can get people a reason to work harder to improve things for themselves, knowing that it is possible for things to get better.
Reading can also be a great stress reliever. Sometimes it’s good to just disconnect from the world and get lost in another one. When you read you are free to picture the story however you want to and nobody can tell you it’s wrong because nobody will see exactly what you see.
Any of you who have a short attention span like me know exactly how hard it is to focus on a book. I’ll find myself having to re-read entire pages because I made a connection to what I was reading and followed it without stopping where I was on the page. While it’s good to make those connections, if you practice controlling your concentration while reading it can help you control tangents while doing other things like driving or listening to other people talk.
The improved mental health from reading can help you sleep better. This will lead to an improvement in overall health. So really reading is good for your entire body. That is, as long as you still take care of your body in other ways. A book won’t help you run faster but if you are sleeping better, you’ll have more energy to practice running.
What Should You Read?
The simple answer is anything. If you are reading, your brain is working. There are magazines with articles you can read. There are blogs and other articles online. There are library’s full of books. Even comic books will get your brain doing more than nothing. I’m usually not picky when it comes to the type of thing I read. As long as I find it informative or entertaining I’m happy. These are the genres and types of things I like to read about the most.
My favorite genres during college were Fantasy and Science-Fiction. I started reading the Legend of Drizzt books my senior year of high school when my friends would always talk about them and then I finally got enough money together to buy one. I still remember the day I bought the first one. It was the same day I missed a drum corps rehearsal and the one guy told them I should be cut. I needed something to distract myself that day so I stopped by the book store at the mall and grabbed it.
Lately, most of the reading I do is for research. I recently went back to college so I have to do research for my classes. I also do research for the things I blog about. As much as it would make things easier to only say my opinions of things, that’s a good way to share incorrect information. At that point I’m no longer helping people. So I make sure I’ve spent at least 8 hours reading about anything before it even goes onto my schedule to be written about. Then I read even more while I’m writing about it.
I also try to find time to research things on the topics of Spirituality and Meditation. I have a group of very close friends who I get together with every once in a while and we share our thoughts and research on the esoteric applications of Alchemy and similar subjects.
I also read a lot about Health and Exercise. I’ll find things about food to see what kind of things I can make to stay on or close to my ketogenic lifestyle. And I’ll see if there are better ways to work different muscle groups when I work out.
And when I feel like reading something for a few minutes just to get my mind off things I’ll find some web comics and binge through them. I love seeing the different art styles and punchlines the artists come up with.