If you are like me, there is never enough time to read. Sure, you may find time to glance over an infographic someone shared on their Instagram story or a news article about a current event—but reading a book seems so much more daunting. With daily assignments, work, and life obligations, sitting down for an extended period to read does not seem like it should be a priority. According to the American Time Use Survey, the percentage of Americans ages 15 and older who read for pleasure on any given day dropped from about 28% in 2004 to about 19% in 2017. With the rise of social media and technology in general, a lot of us may find ourselves scrolling through TikTok or Instagram at the end of a long day. But what if we used this spare time to read a book?
However, with summer quickly approaching, finding time to read should not be an issue. Whether you have just gotten off work for the day or you are sitting by the beach, you can easily crack open a book. During those moments when you need a break from your own life, reading can provide you with a healthy outlet to explore interesting topics and learn about the experiences of others. Reading books can be enjoyable and on top of that, it is also just good for you. Here are 4 reasons why you should put down your phone and pick up a book this summer.
1. Relieves stress
Reading can provide an escape from the obligations and repetitions of our everyday lives. Opening a book allows us to delve into the lives of others and forget about our own worries. Studies done by the University of Sussex found that reading is more effective in calming the mind and body than other activities such as drinking tea and listening to music. Because it requires us to concentrate and understand the words on the pages, reading allows us to relax tension we may not have been aware we had.
2. Makes you more open-minded
Reading improves our ability to empathize and understand what others are feeling since it provides a view into the lives and experiences of other people. When we are reading a story, we are using what is known as the “theory of mind” or our ability to consider the mental state and thoughts of others. Research supporting the theory of mind shows that areas of our brain associated with the actions or thoughts we are reading about are also activated. If a character in our story for example is going through a breakup, areas of our brain related to feelings of heartbreak are also activated. As we gain more practice empathizing with others through the stories we read, we can form more meaningful relationships with the people around us.
3. Increases attention span
Even if we enjoy reading, sitting down to read a book can be difficult. I often find myself impulsively checking my phone every five minutes or scrolling on some social media platform. Although research is still being conducted, it is suspected that apps like TikTok, that give users an unlimited stream of new videos with just one swipe, may be decreasing our attention spans. This makes sense considering how little brain power is needed to passively consume all this content. However, reading a book requires us to concentrate on the plot of a story and continuously work to comprehend how each character is thinking and feeling; it requires our attention. Increasing our attention spans has many benefits including greater productivity in the workplace as well as better academic performance.
4. Improves mental health
Out of all the reasons to read books, I think that this one is most important; reading improves your mental health. In addition to reducing stress levels, it can further be used to treat mental health disorders. Serving as a non pharmacological treatment, bibliotherapy is an approach to mental health treatment that uses books to improve one’s mental health. In a study on the efficacy of bibliotherapy to enhance mental health in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, researchers found that this form of therapy promotes empowerment, decision-making, and problem solving in patients with depression and anxiety. Books allow us to reflect on the thoughts and experiences of the characters we read about and apply it to our own lives.
So, if you are not the type of person to read for fun, I challenge you to start with one book this summer. Browse through the shelves at your local library or bookstore and find something interesting. There is bound to be a book that you will not be able to put down.