From the time I was a kid up until the age of 19, I HATED reading.
I always preferred being outside playing basketball, or any other sport for that matter. My dad would consistently offer me money to read books but for some reason, it just didn’t appeal to me at all. Who wants to read when you can do something more “fun?”
I never really gave reading for fun a chance until I read the book How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
It’s pretty remarkable how Carnegie has impacted my life so dramatically.
Carnegie did much more than merely provide me with insight into relationships. He gave me a first-hand lesson about the true value of a book.
What Are The Benefits of Reading?
The Simple Truth
We change a LOT over time.
Or do we?
Most people have an idealistic vision of continuously growing and developing throughout the course of their lives. It’s an innate human characteristic to desire to make progress and positive changes to the way we think and live.
Here’s the thing: If we’re not exposed to new mental stimuli, new modes of thinking, new food for thought, thenour brains are continuously repeating the same old patterns throughout the course of our lives.
Over time, our brains become very set in the way they operate. We close off to new interpretations of situations, and lack the ability to appreciate alternate viewpoints and beliefs that are out of line with “the way we think.”
To put it simply, without new material for our brains to process, we stop learning and growing.
Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change both functionally and physically throughout the course of an individual’s lifetime. It is a term that reflects our incredible ability to adapt and change in the way we think and live our lives.
The concept of neuroplasticity brings to life this possibility of permanent learning of the brain.
A professor of neurology at Harvard, Rudolph E. Tanzi, and Deepak Chopra explain in their revolutionary book – Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-Being,
“If you think of everyday experience as input for your brain, and your actions and thoughts as output, a feedback loop is formed. The old cliché about computer software — garbage in, garbage out — applies to all feedback loops. Toxic experiences shape the brain quite differently from healthy ones. This seems like common sense, but neuroscience has joined forces with genetics to reveal that right down to the level of DNA, the feedback loop that embraces mind and body is profoundly changed by the input processed by the brain.”
Reading Physically and Functionally Alters The Way Our Brains Work
Reading is a special, immersive experience during which your brain truly comes to life. If you’ve ever read anything that you’ve remotely considered interesting, you’ve felt that new-ness, the special-ness of being introduced to a concept, idea or mode of thought you’ve never heard or had a chance to think about.
What’s incredible is that through the process of reading, the brain is actively growing, adapting, changing, and making new connections and different patterns from what it is ordinarily accustomed to.
Research conducted through brain imaging has shown that the connectivity we experience in our brains while reading stays with us. Researchers call it “shadow activity,” and equate it with muscle memory.
This muscle memory brings a possibility of openness to the way you approach life. When you read a novel, you’re put in another’s shoes. When you read non-fiction, you learn facts and hear opinions that you can take the time to evaluate.
All of this activity that happens semi-automatically as a result of reading has this amazing effect of causing you to approach life situations with new eyes.
An Intro to “Theory of Mind”
“Theory of mind (often abbreviated “ToM”) is the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, and intentions that are different from one’s own.” – Christopher Bergland
Research has shown that reading improves theory of mind, and other less interactive forms of stimulation like television reduce it. Reading has this incredible effect of forcing you into other people’s shoes and helping you adapt to new situations mentally, which all pours over into the way your brain works on a daily basis.
Every Problem You’ve Ever Encountered Has Been Solved & Written About
Beyond the remarkable ways that reading changes who we are and how we live our lives, there are an infinite number of very practical benefits that result from taking the time to read regularly.
You know those things we call “problems?” Those annoying situations that we hate because we’re not sure what the correct method of response is… well here’s some good news.
Every problem you can possibly have has been solved by someone who has had the problem before you. Very rarely are problems or difficult situations wholly unique.
Regardless of whether you’re having emotional, psychological, spiritual, economic, or personal difficulty, others have gone through the same or very similar experiences and undoubtedly written about how they dealt with or solved their issues.
All it takes is a little bit of research, and a sincere desire to solve the issue you’re having.
Reading Helps You Become A Well-Rounded Person
Every book you read adds value to your personality that you can never be stripped of.
With every new thought or idea you’re exposed to, you gain value. The value you gain has a dual benefit of both changing you internally and adding to any interaction you have with others.
I always admire when others have the ability to join in any conversation and speak intelligently about any given topic.
Outwardly, it’s an extremely sexy characteristic, and inwardly you feel better about yourself.
It’s very comforting to have the ability to talk to anyone.
Increasing Attention Span
Most of us have difficulty focusing for long periods of time. Reading plays an enormous role in helping you work on keeping your attention in one place for more than a few minutes.
Our brains, just like our biceps, are muscles. The more you workout your attention, the longer you can stay in focus.
Reading is one of the easiest ways to get your brain-workout in because of how engaging and enjoyable it is when you find reading material you’re excited about.
The Importance of Helping Your Kids Become Book Lovers
For all the reasons we've been talking about in this article and so many more, it is vital to find ways to get your kids to read.
Now more than ever.
Jenny Silverstone created an AWESOME guide to help further your understanding of why it's so important to help your kids find a relationship with books, along with very practical and informative tips for helping to push them in the right direction gently, not forcefully.
It's a fun, easy, informative read that every parent should check out at least once.
Realizing You’re Not Alone
What’s most special about reading is the understanding that you’re not alone.
You’re not alone in the way you live, the feelings you have, the problems you deal with, and the way life hits you.
Each one of us has different life circumstances, but in the end of the day we’re all human.
Your life is just as real for you as my life is for me. It’s a very special feeling to become aware of the fact that the only true difference between two given people is the life they’ve been given.
Through reading, your understanding of other people’s emotions grows, which helps you better deal with your own emotions. You connect better with others on all levels, which in turn allows you to connect better with yourself.