In the age of streaming TV and movies, we often leave our books on the shelf in exchange for another episode of our favorite show. After a long day, what’s easier than unwinding with a glass of wine while catching up on the Big Little Lies season finale?
Engaging in something that doesn’t require a ton of mental exertion is relaxing in the short term. But the woman who chooses a good book more often than good TV enjoys greater health benefits in the long run. Here are three reasons why you should revert back to your bookworm ways (we know she’s in there somewhere!).
01. She is less stressed.
For my first job, I moved from Tennessee, the land of mild winters, to the suburbs of chilly northern Chicago where there was more snow than I had ever seen in my life. Terrified of driving on the icy roads, I often stayed home, wrapped in a blanket with a mug of coffee. To make the most of my time in, I canceled my Netflix account and loaded up on books from the library. Instead of ending my day binge-watching, I began to tackle books I’d had on my reading list for years. I found my time between the pages to be as satisfying as a deep conversation with a dear friend. It gave a dreary season of my life more meaning, and my emotions naturally improved as a result. As it turns out, researchers at the University of Sussex conducted a study revealing that reading was more effective at tackling stress than listening to music or taking a walk—reducing stress by 68 percent.
02. She develops more empathy.
A study by researchers at The New School in New York City found that children who read literary fiction scored highest on tests that measured their ability to infer and understand people’s feelings. One of the researchers, David Kidd, commented: “This genre prompts the reader to imagine the characters’ introspective dialogues. This psychological awareness carries over into the real world, which is full of complicated individuals whose inner lives are usually difficult to fathom...They support and teach us values about social behavior, such as the importance of understanding those who are different from ourselves.”
Empathy enables us to better handle stress. A study by the University of British Columbia found that medical students who underwent empathy training were more compassionate towards their patients and were less stressed in emotionally intense encounters. Students who didn't receive empathy training experienced what researchers call "second-hand stress;" they picked up others' stress without understanding why. As Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird wisely said, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
03. It increases her brain function.
CNN reports that engaging in creative tasks like reading protects neuron growth by promoting the production of new neurons, which are crucial for maintaining a healthy central nervous system. Reading stirs your imagination by allowing you to live a thousand lives if you want to. You can be a penniless wayfarer traveling through the fruit-laden paradise of California in The Grapes of Wrath. You can struggle with Sylvia Plath as she fights against her insanity in The Bell Jar. Or learn from one woman's mistake of making an impulsive match in Far From the Madding Crowd. Reading provides an intimate view into other people’s lives in a way no other medium can rival.
Your bookshelves are lined with remedies to soothe, enrich, and nurture your life. Give yourself permission and time to get lost in a good book. Savor the moment, and have fun with it.
Photo Credit: Lobster and Swan