A study found that 30 minutes of reading lowered blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of psychological distress just as effectively as yoga and humor did. (Photo courtesy of Black Health Matters)

By Nicole D. Batey
Special to the AFRO

Read any books lately? Research has shown that reading has positive benefits on your mind.

In Psychology Today, Christopher Bergland wrote, “Neuroscientists have discovered that reading a novel can improve brain function on a variety of levels. The recent study on the brain benefits of reading fiction was conducted at Emory University. The study titled, “Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain,” was published in the journal, Brain Connectivity.

Researchers found that reading a novel enhances connectivity in the brain and improves brain function. Moreover, reading fiction “improved the reader’s ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes and flex the imagination in a way that is similar to the visualization of a muscle memory in sports.”

Reading strengthens your brain. According to Healthline.com, researchers using MRI scans confirmed that reading involves a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain. As your reading ability matures, those networks get stronger and more sophisticated.

Reading may also help in the fight against Alzheimer’s and prevent cognitive decline. Although research hasn’t proven conclusively that reading books prevents diseases like Alzheimers, studies show that seniors who read and solve math problems every day maintain and improve their cognitive functioning. The National Institute on Aging recommends reading books and magazines as a way of keeping your mind engaged as you grow older.

Reading can increase empathy in an individual. Literary fiction, specifically, can help its readers understand what others are thinking by reading other people’s emotions, according to research published in Science

Ever curl up with a good book? Reading can relieve stress and help you relax. In Healthline.com’s article, “Benefits of Reading Books: How It Can Positively Affect Your Life,” it was noted that in 2009, a group of researchers measured the effects of yoga, humor, and reading on the stress levels of students in demanding health science programs in the United States. The study found that 30 minutes of reading lowered blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of psychological distress just as effectively as yoga and humor did.

If you’re reading before going to bed, then you should exchange your e-reader or tablet for a physical book. The light emitted can have an adverse affect on your sleeping and keep you awake.

Reading can also increase your student’s vocabulary. Studies show that students who read books regularly, beginning at a young age, gradually develop large vocabularies. And vocabulary size can influence many areas of your life, from scores on standardized tests to college admissions and job opportunities. It can also help students articulate themselves better. This certainly helps make the case for why universal pre-K and programs like Headstart are so important in the African-American community.

Reading can improve your focus and concentration. By reading books or other long-form media, as opposed to tweets or statuses, we help rewire our brain to not be distracted as easily. Instead, we are forced to increase our concentration as we have to follow the story in-sequence, according to Ideapod.com. Making time to read 15-20 minutes every day can improve your ability to focus and ultimately help you to be more productive.

These are just some of the reasons reading is good for the mind. It’s not too late to develop the habit of reading or too early. Parents and guardians can read to their children until they’re able to read for themselves. A good suggestion, write down any words you don’t understand and then look up their definition, this will help improve vocabulary.

There’s so much literature out there to be read—fiction, non-fiction, paperback, hardback, e-books, magazines, and newspapers, like your weekly AFRO-American Newspapers (hint, hint!) Take advantage of the mental health benefits of reading today.

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