Listen to Dr Priyanka Shekar

02nd Feb 2023 • 03 Min and 51 Sec

Reading is an excellent habit. It can improve connectivity, create neural pathways, protect against dementia, and sharpen your social skills.

We are all mortal who wants to improve our health and well-being with simple things without any hassle, but what is the right advice? Is it a morning walk? Or drink a cup of coffee to increase your alertness? Or eat beetroot to improve cognitive skills? Welcome to the Optimists podcast, I’m Dr. Priyanka, and this is “One Simple Thing.” Here you will learn just one thing to improve your health in ways you might not expect. 

You can do something to increase your empathy and boost your mental health, and even could help you live longer, which is reading. 

Taking time out of your day to read a novel or any book can improve connectivity, create neural pathways, and protect against dementia. It can even help you sharpen your social skills. 

So reading a book is something you have already been doing or have never been into? 

Reading something with characters in the story seems to deliver a remarkable number of benefits to your brain, well-being, and life. Most of us probably think reading is a silent activity, and only in the last 400 years have people shifted to silent reading, building worlds in our minds. 

Reading out loud has surprising benefits for your memory; a study found that speaking text out loud gets into your long term-memory better than reading in silence. That said, reading even silently boosts your brain activity and functions. When researchers at Standford University scan the brain of people reading Jane Austen, a British Novelist, they found a dramatic and unexpected increase in blood flow across the entire brain. 

Reading can increase the connectivity in your brain and create new neural pathways. When we read, imagining the settings, sounds, smells, and tastes described, the areas in the brain that process these experiences in real life are activated. Words like Rose, Lavender, and Cinnamon, trigger responses not only from the language processing areas of our brains but also those devoted to dealing with smells. 

It’s good to know that reading can even help with mental health. There was an international study from rest test, where reading came out top as the best way to find respite or rest from the pressures of modern life, not a spa day. 

Not only that, a recent analysis of depression and reading found that participants who read benefit for up to three years afterward. Best of all, it might also protect against cognitive decline as we age. 

Research from The US, China, and Taiwan have all found that reading every day might be protective against dementia. And if these don’t convince you to pick up a novel, get this: Reading could be the key to a longer life. 

Research from Yale University found that those who read 30 minutes a day lived, on average, 23 months longer than those who didn’t, which is almost two years. 

So if this is not one thing you are already doing, then do give it a try! Your brain, empathy, and even your mental health could benefit. 

That’s one thing to include in your daily routine for improving your body and life. Join me next time on “One simple thing” for a better tomorrow.