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Healthy Minds and Warm Hearts: How Reading is Self-Caring

As we draw closer to the winter holidays, we come to a time of year that is marked with family, cozy blankets, and relaxing indoors away from the bite of winter weather. Many of us have undoubtedly spent a majority of our time indoors this year and one of the best ways to engage in self-care and build better mental health is by adopting a reading habit. Below are just some of the benefits reading can provide for your mental health.

1. Improving your sleep schedule

Reading is an essential habit to add to your nightly routine and allows you to relax before a good night’s rest. Many factors can create unrest before bed and make restful sleep simply unattainable. Mayo Clinic listed reading as an activity you can do to wind down if you are unable to sleep after 20 minutes in bed. Grab a good book, find a place outside of the bedroom to relax, and read until you feel tired. Rinse and repeat.

Why children and parents should read together

“Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic recommend that parents read with their children beginning as early as infancy and continuing through elementary school years.

Reading with your children builds warm and happy associations with books, increasing the likelihood that kids will find reading enjoyable in the future.

Reading at home boosts school performance later on. It also increases vocabulary, raises self-esteem, builds good communication skills, and strengthens the prediction engine that is the human brain.”

2. Combat symptoms of depression

Any lover of books knows that a good story can whisk you away to another world by the boundless workings of your own imagination. This world may be imaginary but reading can lessen the symptoms of depression by providing an escape and relief from real world problems. This method is so effective that the United Kingdom’s National Health Service has a program called Reading Well that allows medical professionals to prescribe books for particular conditions.

3. Keep your mind sharp

This goes without saying: A good reading habit strengthens your mind like a good trip to the gym for your brain. The act of reading and the content you consume as a reader can challenge your thought processes, broaden your perspective, and provide you with experiences outside of your time and place. The benefits of reading grant a mental acuity and flexibility that enhances your rationality and creativity in other areas of your life.

4. Increase your empathy

A healthy habit of reading can increase your empathy for others:

“One study found that literary fiction, which simulates our everyday lives, increases our ability to feel empathy for others. Participants were given either literary fiction or nonfiction reading material and, once done, they were given an empathy test. Those that read the literary fiction proved to have the most empathic response.”

South African College of Applied Psychology

Reading fiction brings you into the experience of another person, sometimes one that is very different from you. This act of putting yourself in “someone else’s shoes” allows readers to practice empathy and gain new perspective.

5. Stave off dementia

As you know, reading is an activity that sharpens the mind and is now believed to slow the mental decline in older individuals experiencing conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s. According to an article on WebMD, “People who engaged in frequent mental activity in later life had a rate of mental decline that was 32 percent lower than those with average activity. “

Other benefits listed above also contribute to an overall healthy mind that has shown to prevent the physical changes in the brain present in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Have a happy and healthy time reading this Holiday Season!

SAYL wishes you a joyous season and we hope you stay safe and healthy. Pick up a great book today and know that your brain will thank you for it later.

Kirk Fallin