You know already the benefits of reading on your mind and body, how it makes us smarter and more empathetic, how it can increase creativity and all that. But there are a few other benefits to reading that are easy to overlook. Here’s why I think it’s good to pick up a book every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
Makes us pause
We live in a culture that values activity, and the mind itself craves to do things all the time. But sometimes we do more not doing anything, just taking a break from all that activity.
We keep wanting to do things, and sometimes we get into trouble because of it. We hang out with the wrong people, we overbuy and overspend, we jump from one thing to the next, we take holidays that leave us more tired than we were before we packed our bags.
Taking a break from all that is good at least once in a while, and reading helps.
Readying is still a way to keep the mind busy, but at least it keeps our body in one place. It also tends to keep our mind focused on a topic or on someone else’s problems (fiction) rather than our own.
Reduces the risk of accidents
Road accidents, traveling accidents, sports accidents, animal accidents, accidents of most kinds, you name them. Staying home with a book is a pretty safe as far as recreational activities go, provided of course we don’t oversit, which is bad in itself.
Cuts back expenses
Having fun with a book tends to be cheaper than most other forms of entertainment. It may not be immediately stimulating, but with practice it’s fun in a quiet, soothing way.
Slows down time
All around us, technology speeds up time. The pace of life is faster than ever.
One moment we’re 20, the next we’re 25. We get a lot of things done, but do we stop often enough to contemplate them, to observe our habits, to savor our memories?
A good book can make the hours fly, it’s true. But the experience of reading itself slows our body and encourages a deeper appreciation of things. I find this to be particularly true of classics and other books set in the past.
Gives us a break from love woes and interpersonal relations
Other people are wonderful. But other people can also be a pain. A book is a way to be with other people without being with them, especially if the author happens to be dead. Books are social but without the disagreements and the disappointments.
I don’t find that books distances me from other people. The more I read, the more I like people because I become more aware of other perspectives than my own.
In life everyone gets interrupted. In print, the text goes on and on, ideas, images, scenes keep flowing, even those we don’t agree with or that we question. When we read, we can observe and not take sides. We don’t have to interrupt and we don’t get interrupted either.
Slows down our breathing
Our breathing is one of the most wonderful things we have, and yet it’s easy to forget about it. When we read, we slow down our breathing, and becoming aware of it becomes easier. When we read, we stop breathing hurry and worry and disappointment and we breathe words.
Painting copyright: Christopher Clark