I think I speak for everyone when I say this:

2020 has been feeling more like a really bad dream rather than a reality we’re actually living.

Ever since the lockdown, people have reported an increase in stress levels, boredom, loneliness, tiredness – you name it. A lot of us can’t focus on our work and be productive despite the loads of time we have, and we’re blaming ourselves for it.

Yes, we can turn to our cell phones and other devices for solace. However, scientists tell us that this on-screen lifestyle actually affects our brain and health in all the bad ways.

But worry not my brethren! There’s good news.

There are a number of off-screen activities you can slip into your daily routine that can provide life-saving benefits. One of them is reading, and it’s definitely one of the best things you can do for yourself in this trying time.

So without further ado, here are the 7 benefits of reading books in 2020:

1. Longevity
7 Benefits of Reading

One of the most surprising among the 7 benefits of reading is that it might actually help you live longer!

In a long-term health and retirement study, researchers followed a group of 3635 adults for a period of 12 years.  And you know what?

They found that those participants who read books lived 2 years longer than those who either didn’t read or read other forms of media. The research concluded that people who read more than 3 ½ hours every week are 23 percent likely to live longer than those who never read.

Now that alone just made reading a gazillion times more attractive if you ask me. 

2. Improves Theory of Mind and Empathy
7 benefits of reading

Studies have shown that reading books, especially novels – or any kind of story that explores the inner lives of the characters – makes you more empathetic towards other people. (People who lack empathy are the worst kind of people)

Reading improves what scientists call “Theory of Mind”. This means that you improve at reading people and understanding their desires and motivations. It helps you become better at navigating and maintaining healthy relationships.

Now that’s one of the most important and useful skills to possess no matter what you want to do. The ability to effectively read people is the key to be a step ahead in all walks of life.  

3. Effective Communication Skills

Look at every job description ever – in the “qualifications and requirements” column you will find something like this: 

Should have the ability to communicate effectively,” or a similar kind of phrase.

Research has shown that 69 percent of employers are looking to hire people with “soft skills”, like effective communication skills.

Reading is one of the best ways to improve your communication skills. It not only exposes you to new words but also the context in which to use them. Reading well-written, published works will teach you how to phrase exactly what you want to say in ways that will WOW listeners.

But don’t expect to read one book and immediately become a master at this. Like everything else, reading requires practice.

However, there’s no denying that no matter what industry you enter, the person who can present his/her points and ideas clearly and eloquently will always have an edge above everybody else.  

4. Stronger Analytical Thinking Skills

Here’s an assignment for you: 

Go browse a list of the best mystery novels, and pick one that appeals to you the most. Then get a copy(E-book or physical) and start reading.

But listen, your first mystery read is going to surprise you on every page. At least that’s what happened to me and to most people I know.

But once you get the hang of it, you’ll slowly start to get better at picking up the clues, questioning characters, analysing the plot, etc. Then finally one day, you’ll have that amazing, self-esteem-boosting experience where you’re able to solve the mystery before the author reveals it.

It’s a great feeling – trust me, and CONGRATULATIONS! Just like that, you’ve improved your analytical thinking skills tremendously.

Reading a book and being able to provide an in-depth analysis – a critique of the plot, the character development, the pace and narration, all these are signs that one has greatly improved their critical and analytical thinking skills.

And believe me this ability to analyse books will also help you at the workplace or whatever area in your life that requires you to think critically. 

5. Prevents Age-Related Cognitive Decline

Just imagine…

One day you’re leisurely walking down the street towards your home. Suddenly, something stops you dead in your tracks. You look around, and strangely somehow, you can’t seem to remember where you are.

You friends, your kids, your grandkids – they all came to look for you.  They found you somewhere in the middle of a street.

“Who are these people? And why are they so concerned about me?” you think as you stand there, staring blankly at the worried faces in front of you.

You look away and by chance, you catch your reflection in the side window of a nearby car. That’s when it hits you like a speeding truck – you don’t recognize the face staring back at you from the mirror. Your heart starts to flutter, and your breathing picks up pace. You try to think, but no matter how hard you try, you can no longer recall your name or remember who you are.

Then after months of living like this, you’ve given your family no choice but to send you off to some decrepit mental hospital, where you’ll be spending the rest of your waking days in the dark, abyssal world of gagaland.

Yikes! I don’t know about you but the mere thought of that sends chills up and down my spine.

This is called Alzheimer’s disease, and it happens to a lot of people as they grow older. And some of us are unknowingly at a high risk of developing it.

I think you’ll agree that it is in our absolute best interest to do whatever we can to prevent this from happening to us.

Fortunately, studies have shown that seniors who read every day maintain and improve their cognitive functioning. The National Institute on Aging recommends reading books as a way of keeping your mind engaged as you grow older.

The 2013 study conducted by Rush University Medical Center found that people who’ve regularly engaged in mentally stimulating exercises such as reading all their lives were less likely to develop plaques, lesions, and tau-protein tangles found in the brains of people with dementia.

6. Memory Improvement 

Now, after reading the previous point you might be thinking, “Oh great, I’ll start reading when I’m sixty.”

Well, your choice. But you might be missing out on another amazing benefit that reading provides you when you’re still young, which is memory improvement.

Ever wonder how these memory masters perform their memory magic? They can remember ridiculously incredible information – a stacked deck of cards, a gigantic list of numbers or items, etc – just by going through the list once!

You might think that these people were simply born with the gift of a superhuman brain and are just so friggin’ lucky. But that’s actually not true.

What they do is use a combination of different memory techniques that enables their minds to memorize better.

One of the most common techniques is one called the “memory palace” or the “mind palace” (Sherlock Holmes anyone?). It’s a mnemonic technique that activates the visual imagination and utilises associations of different images to form a strong memory.

Using this technique, you can memorise an entire list of things in a short time with a very strong recall.

And you know what? You’re unknowingly applying this technique while reading a novel, therefore training your brain to form stronger memories.

Don’t you find it strange that you can read an 80,000-word long novel, and somehow remember all the characters, all the places and everything that happens in the story after reading it just ONCE?

This is because a good writer makes you visualize the story in your head and forms seamless associations between the characters and the places, much like in the mnemonic technique we talked about.

And studies showed that each new memory you create forges new synapses (brain pathways) and strengthens ones that are already there.

This is just an excellent exercise for the brain.

7. Reduces Stress

Now this one’s huge for me. That’s because I have terrible anxiety. And I can tell you from my experience that nothing helps me keep my anxiety at bay like reading does.

Whenever I feel the sense of impending doom and my heart beginning to flutter, I reach for a book like an asthmatic patient reaches for an inhaler LOL!

But enough of me. Let’s get into the actual science:

 “Bibliotherapy” is a therapeutic tool used by doctors, therapists and social workers to treat mental or psychological disorders. The therapist may prescribe fiction, non-fiction, self-help books or poetry to patients with the purpose of healing.

A study at the University of Sussex found that listening to music reduced stress levels in the subjects by 61%, having a cup of tea or coffee lowered them by 54%, and taking a short walk by 42%.

And guess what? Reading worked best above all, reducing stress levels by 68%, said cognitive neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis.

Reading for just 30 minutes reduces blood pressure, heart rate and psychological distress.  

“Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation.

This is particularly poignant in economic times when we are all craving a certain amount of escapism.

It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination.

This is more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination, as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness.”

dr. lewis

So the next time you feel overwhelmed by stress at work, school or anywhere else, just pick up a good book, grab a cup of coffee and start reading.

That’s it! The 7 benefits of reading and why you should start in 2020.

Now answer this question – which one of the following are you?

  1. I’m definitely ready to start my reading journey and reap the life-changing benefits. I’m excited to explore the wonderful mix of entertainment and education it provides. After all, all I need is a few minutes a day…
  2. Nah, I’m good. You keep your books and your benefits, and I’ll keep my screens on. To be honest, I don’t really care about my mental health and memory and all that crap. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go on Instagram and endlessly swipe through the glamorous lives of other people until I feel like sh*t.

Share your thoughts in the comments!