It always surprises me when I meet someone who tells me they never read. Usually they say the last book they read was in college or they mention a book they started several years ago, but never finished.
Apparently there are a lot of people out there like that. According to a recent Huffington Post/YouGov poll of American adults, it found that 28% had not read a single book over the past year.
With so many other things occupying our time – movies, video games and other media – it can be hard to fit in any reading time.
But it’s important to make time for reading. If you don’t read, you miss out on a lot great benefits.
1. It boosts imagination and creativity
Think back to when you were a little kid and you read stories about outrageous adventures and fantastic places. These stories were imaginative and creative areas for our minds to play around.
When we read, we have to give life to the words that are written. We have to re-imagine the sights, sounds and smells of the story. All that work flexes the imaginative and creative sides of our brains in ways we don’t get other places.
2. Enhanced intelligence
Despite all the technological advancements over the past few decades, reading remains the best way to learn and retain information.
Those who read the most usually have the most smarts. They’ve spent time filling their heads with information and facts that others simply don’t have access to.
3. Readers are sexy
According to this study, women found intelligent guys sexier than those with an average intelligence. In fact, intelligence was rated as one of the most sought after qualities women look for in men according to another study. So for all those single guys out there, it can pay to pick up a book once in a while.
4. Reading can change your life
Some books have the power to change your life in ways you often don’t expect.
These books connected with me on a deep level. They got inside me and changed who I am.
That’s the power of reading. It can give you a journey into yourself just as much as the journey in the story. And like many journeys, you’re never the same afterwards.
5. Improves empathy
It can be hard to sit down and imagine someone else’s life – especially if their world is radically different from your own.
Reading is a great way to get inside their head and find out what their thoughts and feelings are. That’s why it helps you build empathy according to one recent study.
Instead of living an insular life where you can only see things from your own viewpoint, you can open up to what others see.
6. Learning wisdom
Every time you read, you fill your head with knowledge, facts, opinions and stories. Reading is like a delivery system for information.
With all that information, you can also gain wisdom. When people write about their life lessons, stories or experiences, you gain a little insight into how the world works. You become wiser.
The more you read, the bigger you vocabulary is. That shouldn’t be surprising. After all, you’re exposing yourself to more words, and inevitably you’ll fit them into your daily life.
Good readers are also good writers. All successful writers will tell you that in order to improve your writing skills, you need to read every day.
More than that, reading can improve confidence. That can aid you in many areas of life such as social relationships and career advancement.
8. Better thinking skills
It has been shown in this paper that reading enhances analytical thinking. People who read can spot patterns more quickly than those who don’t read.
It keeps your brain sharper and strengthens synapses with each new memory. In other words, your brain become stronger and quicker because you read.
9. Improved focus and concentration
Most of us are used to multitasking. We’ve learned to divide our attention between TV, the internet, twitter, texting and an assortment of other things. But that takes a toll on our ability to focus and concentrate.
Reading a book improves your ability to focus and concentrate. A book demands your full attention because if you don’t give it everything, you become lost and confused.
10. You become more likely to succeed
It’s not impossible to find successful people who don’t read. It’s just really hard.
Think about famous scientists, businessmen, writers and politicians. If there’s a common activity they all share, it is reading.
People who read regularly are more likely to be engaged with the world. According to this paper from the National Endowment for the Arts, people who frequently read are more likely to be engaged civically and culturally.
11. Idea generation
Ideas are powerful. Scientific and technological advancements are based on them. Diseases and world problems are solved with them. Ideas can even change our lives.
When you read, you constantly expose yourself to new thoughts. With all those thoughts swirling around your head, you might go and create an amazing idea of your own.
12. It helps you prioritize goals
Reading opens you up to new worlds of possibility. You might read about new adventures or ways of living – things you never thought about doing.
Reading can make you question what you want and re-prioritize your goals. You may realize you want something you never considered before.
13. You live multiple lives
Non-readers live only one life: their own. Readers have access to many more lives through biographies and fiction. You get to experience everything they do, feel what they feel and live their lives through their eyes.
The experiences we have in life can guide us and make us stronger and wiser. If you only live your own life, you’re missing out on all the lessons other people have learned.
14. Better mental health
Just like any other muscle in the body, your brain needs exercise to keep strong and healthy. Studies have shown that mental activities like reading can slow down the progress (or even prevent) Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Those who read also experience slower memory loss and mental decline later in life compared to those who don’t read.
15. Better physical health
Reading is something you usually do in silence away from others. When you’re engrossed in a good book or story, you get into a meditative state of mind.
That can be really relaxing and calming. As a result, people who read often have lower blood pressure. It’s also been shown to reduce stress and help people suffering from mood disorders.
16. You learn about far-away places
Travel is the best way to learn about other peoples and cultures, but reading comes a close second. It can open a whole new world to you and take you deep into another culture.
There’s a huge world out there beyond your doorstep. People may be living completely different lives in fascinating cultures. There is a lot to learn about how people live all over the globe.
17. It gives you things to talk about
As you expose yourself to new topics, stories and opinion, you find that your ability to start conversations becomes easier. After all, you’re giving yourself a steady source of material to talk about.
18. Discover yourself
Have you ever heard of the expression “losing yourself in a book”? There’s a reason we say that. Reading is an active process where you get deeply involved and invested in what you’re reading.
You can learn a lot about yourself through reading. For instance, if you read fiction, you can ask yourself what you would do in that situation. The answer might just surprise you.
19. Broaden your awareness
If you don’t read, your world is small. You don’t know all the things that are happening all around you. You might not even realize that you’re missing anything at all.
Reading opens you up to just how big the world really is. People are doing fantastic and amazing things all the time.
There are many topics I know nothing about. When I read about them, I’m shedding light onto darkness. It’s like I’m lifting a veil of ignorance away from my eyes and noticing just how little I knew before.
20. There’s no reason not to read
Thousands of books get published every month. Add to that all the blog posts and magazine articles that are out there and you should always be able to find something great to read.
More than that, it’s never been easier to be a reader. Libraries are everywhere – and they’re free. Plus, many are starting to lend out digital copies which would mean you don’t even need to go to a library anymore.
With all the benefits listed in this post, there is no reason not to read.
photo credit: Rach