Overlooked benefits of reading
Reading is one of the most important wellness practices.
When you engage with other forms of entertainment that consume multiple senses (re: tv, youtube, instagram), you can multitask and still get the gist of the content.
Reading requires full concentration. If your mind drifts, you have to find your way back to where you were before, focusing again on the words in front of you in the present moment.
Replace words on the page with mantra and you have the basis of Vedic or Transcendental meditation. It isn't often acknowledged that reading is a form of mindfulness - one of the most science-backed forms of meditation. Sit and read one book for 20 minutes (as opposed to jumping from one article to the next) and you've essentially engaged in a 20-minute meditation.
Beyond acting as a form of meditation, reading is exercise for your gray matter helping to build the neuro-networks that can prevent Alzheimer's and reduce stress.
Reading has even been shown to reduce sugar cravings. Yes, for real.
David Perlmutter, M.D., said on a recent episode of the mbg podcast, "100 percent of humans have a sweet tooth. It’s an ancestral trait that allowed humans to survive. Our sweet tooth is a legacy, and now it’s catered to 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, which leads to obesity." The problem? "When we’re catering to this notion of stimulating the reward part of the brain with sugar, we strengthen that pathway to those reward areas of the brain that are involved with a neurotransmitter called dopamine, and it tends to distance us from connecting to the parts of our brain that aren’t involved in rewarding us moment to moment but are involved in our ability to be empathetic, to make long-term plans, to understand the long-term consequences of our day-to-day choices. We live in a society where we’re catering to the reward system of our brain moment to moment." Conversely, when we strengthen the parts of our brain that are involved in being empathetic (something reading fiction has been shown to do), we weaken the neural pathways to the reward areas of our brain that make us crave sugar.
So dust off that library card and read your way to better health and happiness :D