Yes, “Harry Potter” is awesome. So is “Game of Thrones” and Kurt Vonnegut and Joan Didion and so on. Our favorite books are amazing. They suck us in and spit us out as discernibly better people. We’ve gone on adventures, felt new feelings, and lived another’s life. And, of course, they keep us entertained.
But what about bad books? Well, science seems to say that the act of reading is, in and of itself, good for us. So bring out those embarrassing reads because here are some of the biggest bonuses to our shared hobby.
9. You feel more included
Spending time in another person’s head (even if it’s a fictional head) enhances our “sense of inclusion,” according to psychologists at the University of Buffalo. If life’s taught me one thing it’s that you don’t need real friends when you’ve got make-believe friends.
8. Exercise is easier
Weight Watchers magazine reported that reading a book while exercising helps motivate you to keep going even when you don’t feel like it. Sometimes running on a treadmill for even five minutes can be rough, but if the protagonist of your book is about to get stabbed in the heart by an ancient Greek blade forged by Hephaestus, then you might be inclined to finish your routine.
7. Chasing dreams feels manageable
Ohio State University researchers have found that experiencing a character’s uphill battle with them helps the reader pursue their own life goals. After all, walking from Hobbiton to Mount Doom to put a stop to evil seems impossible until you see somebody else do it…even though Frodo could have just flown there on an eagle.
“So you do pick ups, but not deliveries? Fine…” / via GIPHY
6. Your brain’s longevity increases
Researchers from the Ruth University Medical Center in Chicago suggest that folks who keep their mind stimulated at a young age experience a slower mental decline when they grow old. Think of it as a long-term investment. Read now, and have a killer memory later.
5. Falling asleep isn’t as excruciating
Chris Winter, M.D., is the medical director of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center, and, according to him, reading just before bed helps relieve some of the day’s stress. He does suggest you avoid page-turners, though. So the more boring, the better!
4. Life becomes less stressful
Trying to relax? Toss out your tea, stop your music, and don’t bother going for a walk. Researchers at Mindlab International at the University of Sussex have suggested that reading is the superior de-stressing method. So when life’s becoming a bit much, take a breather, and pull out your favorite novel…or your least favorite. It really doesn’t matter.
3. Depression isn’t as insurmountable
Though it may feel like a bottomless abyss of meaninglessness, depression might not be so invincible. A study authored by Christopher Williams of the University of Glasgow found that patients who read self-help books in conjunction with support sessions had lower levels of depression after a year than patients who received typical treatments. So when ignorant people tell you to cheer up, ignore them, and find a self-help book. That’ll make you cheer up!
2. Empathizing is second nature
Researchers in the Netherlands had subjects read a story by Arthur Conan Doyle, and those who were “transported” by the Doyle story were found to be more empathic than those who weren’t. So reading fiction makes people more able to understand other’s feelings.
1. …and it may prevent Alzheimer’s
A report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has shown that elderly people who read are 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. The study’s author, though, does say subjects who displayed decreased mental activity might have already been developing Alzheimer’s. As exciting as the prospect is that reading can prevent Alzheimer’s, causality has yet to be 100% proven. In the meantime, however, you might as well pick up a book, and hedge your bets!