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What does reading do to the brain? And how can I make reading part of my routine?


“I work 9 to 5 and take care of my family afterwards. Can I still take a shot at becoming a reader?”

“I am a full-time employee and do a side job after work. Is it too late for me to pick up reading as a hobby?”

“I am a stay-at-home mom taking care of my 3 children. Is it worth it to teach myself the love of reading?” 

As life becomes increasingly busy, many of us might drop reading as part of our habit. Sure, we still get to do some reading everyday. We browse through text messages, social media posts, emails and the occasional blog. 

But according to the Pew Research Center, only about 31% of Americans are able to finish 1 book in 1 year.  

Why do people read? 

We may have forgotten about the pleasures that reading gave us when we were younger, or we really did not develop the love for it before. There are so many reasons why people read, but here are just some of them.

  • To feel like going into imaginary adventures. 
  • To learn new things. 
  • To be entertained. 
  • To have a tool to escape reality
  • To enjoy being alone and silent

Reading and the love of it is a skill that is developed and nurtured, most of the time, from childhood. And when it is continued, it becomes part of our life as adults. However, it can also be forgotten, and neglected over time. 

Stories of successful people also seem to point to the love for reading as a cornerstone of their mindset. It is connected with their growth mindset. 

Start or renew the love for reading

  • Reading changes the brain for the better. 

Several parts of the brain are engaged when we read and comprehend stories. One of these is the brain’s white matter. In a study by neuroscientists at Stanford University, researchers reported that when children improve their reading ability, their white matter also develops. It is connected to our ability to learn a language and process visual information. What is interesting is that those who read well even made their brain functions stronger, and the opposite was seen in weaker readers.

Other research also showed that brain activity induced by reading remained particularly active even after the book was finished. The researcher concluded that the part of the brain that is assigned to movement, sensation and pain is able to feel the experiences of the book’s protagonist even after you have put the book down!

  • Reading improves your mental health. 

Some mental health struggles in the modern world have a connection of feeling isolated, lonely, and disconnected from others and the world. When we read, we get to know characters who are also struggling with these issues and it makes us feel seen and understood. Reading as a hobby can also connect us with others who have love for books! 

Research has shown that reading high quality books, especially classic books, improves our empathy and social skills that we can use to connect with others. 

There is a release in dopamine after finishing a story, and this hormone becomes a powerful motivator. So if you are looking for an activity that can raise your motivation, picking up a book is a good idea! 

  • Develop reading habits. 

  • What is a good reading environment? One that has few to no distractions. Separate yourself from the ping of notifications for a while. 
  • Join a book club, online or face to face, to encourage you to read more consistently. 
  • Start with stories that excite or inspire you.  You can read different kinds of books and don’t feel pressured to finish each whole chapter in a single sitting. 
  • See what format works for you in every season of life. If the ease of audiobooks match your current busy lifestyle, that is okay. Read how you want, as long as you get to enjoy the act of reading! 

Be patient with yourself as you embark on your reading journey. As you cultivate reading as a habit, you can enjoy a variety of benefits including reduced stress and an improved mental well being!

Hundreds of premier mental health or health care career opportunities across the nation are waiting for you! Check them out and connect with the ones that match you the best. 

What does reading do to the brain? And how can I make reading part of my routine?
Brandon Resasco