When was the last time you read a book cover-to-cover? For some, this was months or years ago. For others, the last page of a novel was turned just the other day. Or, maybe the last time you read an entire book was for a high school or college class. Whenever the last time you read was, there’s always time to pick up another book and make reading a part of your daily routine. Not only does reading prevent aging and cognitive decline, but it also helps combat depression and improve sleep patterns. Whether you’re new to reading regularly or a self-proclaimed bookworm, making reading a habit has something to offer all of us.
Reading Once A Day Keeps The Doctor Away
The act of reading regularly is truly medicine for the mind – and there’s plenty of science to back it up. One of the most valuable health benefits that comes from making reading a daily habit is preventing cognitive decline that comes along with aging. In fact, The National Institute on Aging suggests reading books and magazines as a way to strengthen our brains over time, and ultimately help prevent inevitable cognitive deterioration. Studies have also shown that reading regularly can play a role in the prevention of other brain-related diseases that come with aging such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Reading pushes the brain to perform “mental gymnastics,” forcing its many parts to work together as a well-oiled machine to engage with the text at hand. Engaging with a storyline strengthens our brain’s processing skills, memory function, and general connectivity, improving its overall function in the long run.
In a study conducted by the American Academy of Neurology, research found that reading regularly does wonders for our brains as we age, no matter when we start the praised habit.
“Our study suggests that exercising your brain by taking part in activities such as these across a person’s lifetime, from childhood through old age, is important for brain health in old age,” Robert S. Wilson, study author at Rush University Medical Center of Chicago explained. “Based on this, we shouldn’t underestimate the effects of everyday activities, such as reading and writing, on our children, ourselves, and our parents or grandparents.”
The act of reading can also spark emotional wellness on a cellular level. When we’re experiencing sadness, grief, or anxiety, reading can transform our feelings by shifting focus to another world entirely. Reading regularly has proven to decrease levels of depression and anxiety, boost serotonin levels, and serve as a positive coping mechanism. It’s even proven to strengthen our empathy muscles, making us feel more connected to one another.
Our sleep patterns can also improve with a daily dose of reading, especially before bedtime. Light reading before bed, like a magazine or novella, can help quiet any worrisome thoughts from the day and get the mind ready for our impending REM cycle. And building a habit of picking up a book an hour or two before going to sleep tells our body and mind that bedtime is near. A study conducted by Dr. David Lewis, a cognitive neuropsychologist at University of Sussex found that reading before catching some Z’s for the night can reduce stress levels by as much as 68%. That statistic alone is nothing to yawn at.
How To Find Your Next Favorite Book
Ah, so many books to read and so little time. Narrowing down the next book to explore can be tricky, let alone finding one that speaks to your inner bookworm. While asking friends what they’re reading and joining book clubs are excellent avenues for discovering new books, there are tons of apps that can help you sift through thousands of amazing titles by providing selections that are tailored to your unique reading taste.
Likewise is an app that delivers book recommendations based off of books you already enjoy. Their motto? Get better recommendations. Available for both iOS and Android, Likewise also has an in-app forum where users can ask for book recommendations and others can chime in to suggest their favorites. This unique feature allows users to engage with a growing community of booklovers and find new titles to explore daily. Likewise also provides TV, podcast, movie, and even restaurant recommendations right to your smartphone. It’s free to sign up, too.
Libby is another stellar book finder app that’s one of the best-kept secrets on the app market. The app acts as a user-friendly middleman between you and your local library, connecting you with books and e-books that you can borrow within the app for free. Don’t have a library card? That’s no problem when using Libby. Many of the libraries on Libby’s platform offer the option to register for one online. And if reading an e-book on your phone isn’t your jam, Libby also offers a desktop feature so you can read on your computer, tablet, or laptop screen with ease.
Better Ways To Buy Books
If you’ve gotten this far, you might be daydreaming about the next book you’re going to buy. You might also be googling where to buy that specific title, too. Nowadays, books can be delivered to your doorstep in a matter of a day or two. And if we’re talking about e-books, they can be downloaded quicker than a page turn. There’s a myriad of buying options out there that allow you to make a sustainable book purchase, making you feel good about where your dollar is going. Bookshop.org is a great starting place for making an ethical book purchase, making it super easy to buy books from independent bookstores across the country. Their mission is simple – to provide easy and convenient ways to get books while also financially supporting local, independent bookstores. When you check out, Bookshop.org lets you know how much of your purchase is going towards supporting independent booksellers. Better World Books is another sustainable online option for buying books and feeling good about your purchase. For every book that the organization sells, they will donate a book to someone in need as a part of their Book For Book program. Their donation recipients range from Feed The Children and Books For Africa. As of 2018, their book donations surpassed 26 million.
So the next time you find yourself feeling unmotivated, experiencing bouts of depression or anxiety, or even having trouble falling asleep, try turning to a book for solace. Your brain will thank you for the workout later, and you never know where a story might take you next.
Photo: Books sit on a shelf at the Cecil H. Green Library on the Stanford University Campus December 17, 2004 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)