Four ways reading could improve your health and wellbeing

By: Helen West,

Four ways reading could improve your health and wellbeing

There's nothing quite like losing yourself in a good book.

Reading is the perfect hobby. It's fun, can be done anywhere, and you'll never run out of things to read! But did you know it can also improve your wellbeing?

It can reduce stress, improve your sleep, and make you more empathetic towards others. Research suggests that reading protects the brain in old age and may even help keep the symptoms of dementia at bay.

So sit back, put your feet up, and read on to find out more!

Reading can reduce stress

Reading is a great way to relax and unwind. If you’ve had a stressful day, setting aside half an hour to read a few chapters of your favourite book can help calm your nerves.

The act of reading forces your body and brain to slow down. It helps slow your heart rate and eases tension in your muscles, because it requires concentration.

Text reads: reading for just 6 minutes can ease muscle tension and help you relax.

In fact, studies have shown that reading is more effective at overcoming stress than listening to music, having a cup of tea, or going for a walk. 

Reading before bed can also help you drift off to sleep. While screens can disrupt your natural sleep pattern, reading indicates to your brain and body that it's time to wind down and switch off for the night.

Reading can improve your social skills

Reading is often thought of as a solitary activity, and there's no denying that burying your nose in your book can be a good way to avoid awkward conversations on public transport! But reading can also help develop your social and personal skills.

People who regularly read fiction tend to be more empathetic than non-readers. Books help us connect with the world around us, and reading about the experiences of others gives us valuable perspective on our own lives and reminds us that we're not alone.

Reading - the best state yet to keep absolute loneliness at bay. William Styron

Reading can even help tackle loneliness. Reading groups and books clubs are  a great way to meet people with similar interests, bond over a love of books, and discover new authors and genres.

If you want to find out more about reading groups, you can find your local group here.

Reading keeps our brains active

Memory loss is something many of us worry about as we grow older. Our brains tend to slow down as we age. You may find it takes you longer to think of a certain word or remember the name of an acquaintance.

As frustrating as this can be, there are things you can do to improve your memory.

Text reads: A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies...The man who never reads lives only one.

Mentally stimulating activities - like reading a challenging book - keep your mind active and help you retain your cognitive abilities.

This helps slow down memory loss and protects you against more severe cognitive issues, including dementia. Maintaining your mental agility will also help your brain cope better if you do develop a condition like Alzheimer's disease.

Reading can help you take control of your health and wellbeing

Books are a great source of information. The Reading Agency’s ‘Books on Prescription’ scheme was set up to help people manage and understand their health and wellbeing.

Doctors and health workers can issue prescriptions for self-help books. The prescription can then be taken to any public library, where the book prescribed can be reserved free of charge.

Image of a Books on Prescription leaflet

A huge range of books are available under the scheme. They cover everything from long-term physical conditions such as arthritis and heart disease, to mental health problems and dementia.

French writer and philosopher Voltaire once said: "Let us read, and us dance, these two amusements will never do any harm to the world." So whether you prefer getting cosy in front of the fire with a cup of tea and your favourite novel or enjoying a funny bedtime story with your grandchildren, you've got the perfect excuse!

Read more: What is Alzheimer's disease?

Read more: Our fondest summer holiday memories


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published