What Are the Mental Benefits of Reading Books?

Posted by Origin Active Lifestyle Communities on September 15, 2020 | 4 minute read

Origin_September 2 Blog

For some, reading has been a lifelong passion, while it may be a newly developed hobby for others. Whichever the case may be, if you are reading, you are reaping many mental benefits!

On the other hand, if you have not yet discovered the joy of reading, now is a perfect time. Since the global COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult to gather with friends and family, reading is a great way to spend your time, not only for entertainment purposes but also for the many benefits that reading provides.

September is “Read a New Book Month.” To celebrate, Origin Active Lifestyle Communities, with senior communities throughout Canada, would like to share some key benefits of reading books.

Mental Benefits of Reading Books

Enhanced Memory

When you read a book, you are engrossed in the story. Your mind is stimulated and engaged, connecting pieces of the book and having to remember key elements that move the story forward. Without recalling the details of the story, the characters and plot turning points, for instance, the book would not make sense. You would be reading page after page without any meaning.

In everyday life, this translates to short-term memory and being able to recall everyday events. The Intelligencer reports that “regular mental workouts,” such as reading, “will help you become more receptive to learning, therefore helping with memory retention.” Furthermore, a study published in Neurology found that older adults who engaged in reading and other mentally stimulating activities had slower memory decline rates than those who refrained from these exercises.

Sharper Decision-Making Skills

An ability known as fluid intelligence is the analytical and reasoning power of an individual’s brain. As we age, however, our fluid intelligence declines. Much like the way that reading enhances memory, it challenges the mind and delays the decline of fluid intelligence. As a result, adults who read regularly benefit from sharper decision-making skills.

According to The Intelligencer, “mystery novels are often the most beneficial to help you improve your decision-making. A good plot will have you thinking and planning the whole way through.”

Delayed Onset of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

Challenging your brain provides many benefits, and reading helps you to do so. One significant benefit of challenging your mind is that it can delay the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Actively reading challenges your brain and helps to build neuronal connections that dementia destroys. By creating a new supply of these neuronal connections, symptoms caused by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia may take longer to emerge.

Increased Empathy and Emotional Intelligence

One of the benefits of reading books that may be overlooked is that it increases your empathy and emotional intelligence. Reading about three-dimensional characters and observing how they react to certain situations and interact with one another can be directly translated into everyday life. “Repeat exposure to new situations, beliefs, and ideas through literature gradually strengthens your mind’s tendency to connect and empathize with others at any stage of life.”

Reduced Stress

When we feel overwhelmed and stuck in our daily routines, feelings of stress can consume us and negatively affect our overall health and wellness. Reading is a great way to unwind and relax. Getting pulled into a story can focus your attention on something other than your to-do list or source of stress. In fact, “a 2009 study by the University of Sussex found that reading for just six minutes can reduce stress levels by up to 68%.”


Better Sleep

Because reading helps to relax and unwind, it is a great activity to implement into your nighttime routine. Additionally, if you make reading at night a habit, this will signal your body that it is time to sleep.

Adapting How You Read

As we age, certain health conditions may present themselves that make reading in a traditional manner more difficult, such as vision problems or chronic arthritis. Do not rule out reading just yet, though! There are a variety of ways to overcome these obstacles so that you can reap the benefits of reading books.

A few adaptive reading tools include:

  • Large Print Books
  • Magnifiers
  • Book Holders
  • E-Reading Devices

The “active” in Origin Active Lifestyle Communities does not refer solely to physical activity. Mental activity and stimulation are an equal part of enjoying a healthy lifestyle. For more information on our retirement communities or the services we offer, contact our Origin team.


Topics: Active Aging, Health & Nutrition