This post is one that gets me excited. It gets me excited because, well…because I love to read. In fact, there are few things in this world that I love doing more than I love to read (preferably on my covered porch during a nice, spring rain or with a mug of hot cocoa during a Colorado snowstorm). So, to find research that shows that readers tend to live more interesting, vibrant and enriched (i.e. FabYOUlous) lives makes me pretty happy.
Most of my reading tends to be non-fiction, however I do love a good romance–especially if the romance happens to involve sexy, badass vampires (for my latest obsession, check out the Black Dagger Brotherhood series). For me though, it doesn’t matter if I’m reading a book on personal development like Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic or a guilty pleasure book like J.R. Ward’s Blood Kiss — it’s all pleasure reading in my book. I also love the fact that my husband, step-daughter and yes, even my young adult and teenage sons all enjoy reading. Hopefully, this is true for you as well, but if it isn’t–it is time for you to give reading another shot. If you still need some convincing, just take a look at all of the FabYOUlous benefits that reading will bring into your life…
10 Fab-YOU-lous Reasons to Love Reading
1.) Reading is SEXY. Okay–I’m starting right off the bat here with the most important benefit of reading–ha! It’s true though–a Northwestern University study found that men and women both value intelligence as a highly desirable quality when looking for a potential mate and let’s face it–readers tend to be seen as more intelligent people than non-readers. So, when a hottie grabs the seat next to you on the subway, whip out a book and let it work its magic.
2.) Reading opens you up to new worlds and alternate perspectives. A good, well written book is about the closest we can get to experiencing life from another person’s perspective. This can help us in our real lives by instilling within us the ability to expand our horizons and see the world with a different viewpoint from our own, thus awakening our humanity to the plights of others. Good books also allow us to visit new worlds and time periods–even if the visit is just taking place in our heads.
3.) Reading is a great mood booster. People who are avid readers report lower stress levels than those who don’t read because reading increases the production of the calming hormones dopamine and oxytocin which in turn can reduce blood pressure by six points. Reading provides a great way to temporarily escape the worries and stress of the day as you immerse yourself in another world, and this is especially true if you read something upbeat and inspiring like Treasure Yourself by Miranda Kerr. The respite might only be temporary but the calming effects of time spent reading can carry forward into other parts of your day.
4.) Reading will make you a better writer and speaker. Reading will help you to develop a larger vocabulary and will improve your verbal skills. Additionally, absorbing all of those words and how they are put together will help you to become a better writer. In fact, the best advice for those who want to become writers or speakers is to spend more time reading.
5.) You can learn almost anything by reading. Want to learn to cook? There’s a book for that (several books actually). Trying to rebuild the engine of a ’69 Mustang? There are books that can help with that too. Pretty much anything that you want to learn from Civil War history to flower arranging to Quantum Physics, can be found in books. This knowledge is accessible to anyone who is willing to take the time to read. Even reading for pleasure can help to make you smarter because reading requires concentration, focus and imagination–all of which give the brain a workout and help to keep it from aging. Some studies have even shown that reading may help to prevent Alzheimer’s.
6.) Reading will make you a more engaging and engaged individual. Research at the National Endowment for the Arts has found that individuals who read are also more likely to vote and be engaged in their communities than those who don’t. They join clubs, participate in service projects and support the arts. In addition to being more engaged, readers also tend to be more engaging because they always have something interesting to talk about–besides the latest episode of How I Met Your Mother.
7.) Reading is cheap entertainment. In fact, if you go to the library, reading is free entertainment. However; even if you purchase books or e-books, you will still likely spend less than you do on your monthly cable bill. Not only is reading cheap entertainment, it is also better entertainment. There’s a reason that people always say that the book was better than the move–it’s because the book is always better than the movie.
8.) Reading can make workouts less grueling. That treadmill or stationary bike workout will fly by if you are engaged in an engrossing book. Just make sure that you perch your book on a stand rather than trying to hold it in your hands as you work out.
9.) Reading boots self-esteem and helps you to reach your goals. Reading can help you to achieve your goals by teaching you and inspiring you. By reading inspirational stories about other people who have lived their dreams and achieved success, you will be more inspired to go after your own dreams and to work hard for your goals. Reading will also provide a boost to your creativity level and intellect which will, in turn, help you to feel more confident and self assured.
10.) Reading teaches you to be human. Few things in life can open you up and free you to experience the full range of human emotions the way that great literature or poetry can. These emotions are what set us apart from other creatures and give us our humanity. Research shows that people who love to read tend to be more empathetic toward others and have a greater level of emotional intelligence than those who do not. This ability to connect to others on an emotional basis should be reason enough to reach for a good book.
Now that you’ve read this list and are determined to become an avid reader, here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your time spent reading…
5 Tips to Maximize Your Reading
1.) Eliminate distractions. This might seem like common sense, but many people don’t realize just how detrimental it can be to have sensory input coming from all different directions when you are trying to concentrate. Some people focus best in a quiet room where they can read in solitude. Others might prefer the “white noise” of a coffee shop as they sit at a back table where they won’t be disturbed. I have friends who can listen to the radio while reading but this never seems to work for me because I stop reading and start singing along to the music. The key is to trust in whatever works best for you, but ensure that your surroundings enhance your reading experience rather than detract from it.
2.) Read books that interest you. Okay–this might not always be possible if you have a strict class curriculum that you must stick to or you absolutely have to read some work-related materials that are vital to your employment, but if you have the chance to read outside of these two scenarios, be sure that you choose reading material that appeals to you. Don’t read something just for the sake of impressing others because seriously–very few people care if you make it all the way through Dostoyevsky’ Crime and Punishment (just being able to say Dostoyevsky will be enough to impress most people). Instead, read books that make you happy and fuel your soul. Also, if you start a book but then discover that it isn’t as good as you had hoped it would be, don’t feel bad not finishing it. Life is too short to be wasted on literature that does nothing for you. If you aren’t sure, what kind of books/stories/literature to start with, ask your friends for recommendations or check out my friend Sara’s blog where she does great reviews on books, wine and life.
3.) Don’t read important material when you are tired. Whether it’s a report for work, an assignment for school or information about a medical procedure that you are scheduled for, don’t try to tackle any important reading while you are tired. You won’t be able to absorb the material and you’ll end up having to read the same paragraph over and over again (and still won’t remember what it said.) Reading when you are tired (like before you go to bed) is fine for pleasure reading since it can help you to relax but don’t try to tackle anything of critical importance until you are feeling well rested.
4.) Take notes as you read. This might be a bit overkill if you are simply reading a fictional book for pleasure but if you are reading with the intent of gaining understanding, inspiration or motivation, note taking can be a great tool to help you retain what you learn. Jot down any particularly poignant passages that you want to remember or key dates, ideas or names. If you own the book that you are reading, you might just want to scribble your notes in the margins of the pages and use a highlighter to emphasize key points. If you don’t own the book or don’t want to desecrate it by writing in it, you might want to start a reading notebook where you keep notes on the different books that you are reading. Having notes on what you’ve read is a valuable tool for when you want to come back to key points from your reading but don’t necessarily want to hunt through an entire book to find them.
5.) Every so often, try re-reading something. I have a confession–those sexy vampire books that I mentioned at the very beginning of this post…yeah, I’m currently reading them for the third time (please don’t tell my old, college literature professors!) They are that good. Even though it might sound strange to go back and read something that you’ve already read and already know how it ends, it can still be a beneficial practice. For one thing, you’re not the same person that you were five, ten or twenty years ago so your experience of a book will likely be different from the first time that you read it. Every experience that we go through in life changes us and shapes the way in which we process information. Reading a book in your 40’s that you enjoyed when you were in your 20’s might give you a whole different perspective and new appreciation for the book because you’ll bring to it greater levels of understanding and experience. Good books are like good friends and sometimes reuniting with a good friend feels better and brings more comfort than going out and finding a new friend. Additionally, according to researchers at the University of Buffalo, reading a book that you’ve already read (and loved) will help you to fall asleep at night 32% faster because enjoying a familiar tale spurs the release of the feel good chemical serotonin as well as the sleep-inducing chemical melatonin into your body
Now that you’ve read about the benefits of reading and are armed with tips on how to make the most of your time spent reading, it is time to put what you’ve learned into practice. You can start out by reading my e-book “50 FabYOUlous Ways to Energize Your Life”. It’s a free download that you will receive when you sign up for FabYOUlous Life email updates (the little grey box in the top, right corner of this page) and once you’ve read that, you can check out some of my other favorite books by clicking here.
Also–as you discover books that you love, I’d really like to hear about them so that I can add them to my reading list. Just pop me a comment with what you are currently reading or a favorite that you’d recommend. In the meantime–happy reading!