When was the last time you curled up on the couch with a good book? Many of us only find the time to read while travelling, yet the average person watches television for more than two hours a day. Why is it that we don’t indulge in enough good books?
Here we talk of four reasons why you should read more instead of than watching TV.
1. Reading Reduces Stress
A 2009 study at the University of Sussex found that reading for only 6 minutes can reduce stress levels by up to 68% . As reading is an essential part of many jobs and degrees, it is easy to forget the joys of reading a good book for fun. Yet starting a book which has no direct ties to our daily routines can help you forget your own worries, by absorbing yourself in the worries and story of the plot; stimulating physical benefits including a reduced heart rate and less muscular tension.
2. Reading Improves your Memory
When reading a book, you need to remember the characters, their stories, ambitions, history and idiosyncrasies, as well as various sub-plots incorporated in the twist of the story. That’s a lot to keep in your head, but brains are amazing organs; capable of storing huge volumes of information. Each time you make a new memory, new synapses are formed, or old ones are strengthened; improving your short-term memory and stabilizing your mood. Not bad.
3. Reading Expands your Vocabulary
The more books you read, the more words you will know. If English (or any other language) is not your native language, reading a book – in that language – will help you learn new words, by using the context of what you’re reading to make inferences when stumbling across a word or two you don’t know. Indeed, a study found that the vocabulary knowledge of fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-grade children significantly improved with the larger number of novels consumed . Not only did the children’s vocabulary improve, but also their general knowledge, spelling, and verbal fluency.
Reading only helps children learn new words? Think again. Articulate people perform better in the workplace, because they can speak to their superiors with confidence. As an articulate person, you’re more likely to be considered for a promotion, because those with a large vocabulary and volumes of general knowledge stored in their brains can hold conversations with people from all walks of life, sharing the latest facts and figures in literature, scientific breakthroughs, and global events.
4. Reading Improves your Focus and Concentration
One of the major contributors to having a poor memory is a lack of concentration when learning information in the first place. In a typical five-minutes, a person divides their time between work tasks, checking emails, talking online (gchat, skype, etc.), monitoring the phone and talking with colleagues. Or a student will be half listening to an online lecture while leafing through notes, checking for WhatsApps and talking to their neighbour. Sound familiar? Gone are the days where study or work were without distraction; today we’re simply bombarded.
This type of overstimulation increases stress, and lowers our productivity. Indeed, research by psychologist Dr Glenn Wilson found workers who were distracted by phone calls and emails experienced a 10% drop in their IQ .
When you read a novel, all of your attention is concentrated on the story – the rest of the story falters into the background and you can immerse yourself in the plot. Try reading for 15-20 minutes during your early morning commute, and you’ll surprised how much better your attention span gets while studying, at the workplace or spending time on tasks.
And why you shouldn’t watch TV
‘Binge watch’ refers to the habit of watching a large number of television programs in one sitting. A research team at the University of Toledo recently found that the 77% of participants who watched more than two hours of TV each night felt significantly more depressed, stressed and reported higher levels of anxiety than those who watched less.
The findings left researchers questioning: does depression and anxiety bring people to watch more TV, or is it the other way around? Does binge watching create an unhealthy feeling of solitude? Either way, researcher Professor Karmarkar suggests that we spend more of our time doing enjoyable activities – such as reading – which are beneficial for our mental health, intelligence, concentration, and memories. Your brain will thank you for the effort you put in.
 Reading Reduces Stress Levels (2012).
 Cunningham, A. & Stanovich, K. (2001) What reading does for the mind. Journal of Direct Instruction, 1(2): 137-49.
 ‘Info-mania’ dents IQ more than marijuana (2005).