We’ve all heard about why it’s important for children to read, but very few adults realize the benefits of sitting down with a good, exciting book. ‘I’m too busy!’ we say, but then spend hours on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs.
However, a good fiction book gives something that even the best blogs can’t: a chance to dive deep into a world that is so different from our own. It’s the cheapest form of travel, and one of the few ‘medicines’ that are fun to take. It can heal your soul, improve your skills, and even change your life. Here are just some of the reasons to make the time to read.
1. Reading fiction can kick you out of a rut.
Do you feel like a hamster running endless circles on a wheel? Same routine. Same people. Same steady stream of worries and anxieties. ‘Can I make the deadline? Do I have enough money? Are the kids okay?’
Reading can give you a much-needed escape from a monotonous routine. For a few hours, you’re in a different place, leading a different life. You’re not an overworked corporate drone or a frazzled mom, you’re a spy trying to stop a plot for world domination, or an Egyptian princess, or a shipwrecked sailor.
This escape is not only fun, but invigorating. Remember how you felt after a vacation to the Bahamas or after getting new haircut? ‘Wow, that was a much-needed change!’ You come back to real life energized and in a much better mood. Yes, your problems are still there—but you’re more prepared to take them on.
2. Reading fiction can inspire you.
You’re probably thankful for friends who can give you advice when you have a problem, or who share their ideas and give you a completely different way of looking at things. You may not always agree with them, but you enjoy the conversation…and grow from it.
The characters in a book may not be real, but they can inspire, teach, and motivate you too. The plot may be completely out of this world—after all, what are the chances that we’ll discover, like Harry Potter, that we’re actually wizards? But millions of people fell in love with this series and identified with this awkward, shy, and lonely boy who overcame his fears and finally slay the enemy. We all have our ‘inner Voldemorts.’ And we all have a magic inside us that we never knew we had.
3. Reading fiction breaks the stress cycle.
Stress, in and of itself, isn’t bad. Sometimes, we need the motivation to work harder and faster than we normally would, and an obstacle—whether it be a hungry tiger chasing you in the jungle, or a crazy deadline—pushes our body into high alert. Our are senses are heightened, and we get an amazing adrenalin rush.
The problem, however, is chronic and unrelenting stress. If we’re not working, we’re worrying, and our poor body feels like it’s been chased by a hungry tiger for the last 10 years.
Reading a book breaks the stress cycle. As we settle down into bed with a book, our bodies relax, our heart rates slow down. Then, our mind is gently nudged out of worry mode and allowed to focus on more pleasant things. It is very healing. In fact, the United Kingdom launched a ‘Reading and You’ scheme that incorporates regular reading into traditional stress-management and depression-management therapies.
4. Reading fiction makes you smarter.
We know that how-to books are educational, but even fantasy novels and other forms of fiction can actually improve your intelligence. That’s because the flights of imagination stimulate the right side of the brain.
The right side of the brain is responsible for metaphorical, visual, and intuitive thought. So, as you try to picture the scenery described in the book, or follow the subtle rhythms and nuances of a particular author’s writing style, you practice mental muscles you’d never really use while computing the bills or encoding data into your report.
5. Reading fiction can enrich your friendships.
Reading may be a solitary activity, but it can also be a way of bonding with others. You can start a book club, or just talk about the books you love with the people around you. You may have absolutely nothing in common with that girl in Accounting, until you find out that both of you enjoy reading Jane Austen novels. Or, you can have a really amazing conversation with your husband, just by analyzing a character: ‘What is it about Edward that girls really like, anyway?’ Books are an excellent ice breaker, too. ‘So, have you read that new bestseller… do you think it lives up to its hype?’ You have to admit, it’s so much more interesting than talking about the weather!