Reading and Health

Reading seems like an unlikely topic for a website on Obstetrics, Gynecology and healthy living. However, since I am a firm believer in the body mind connection, reading fits right in as a powerful tool for health. 

You might ask, why reading ? Why not just web page browsing, or movie watching ? These are good questions and deserve answers. The reason is that reading, specficially deep prolonged reading benefits the brain far more thoroughly than do these other activities. Web page browsing may be interactive, but it is seldom deep or immersive. Movies are more passive, requiring little of one's own imagination. Real reading is a deep immersive creative activity of one's own brain. 

Why is this good for health ? Before answering this question, one must consider what is entailed in the concept of overall health, both mental and physical. Do this, and hold on to that concept. 

Now check out these references: 

Here is a nice little Youtube about Reading and the Brain: 

Wired ran a critique of the work cited in this video. Click here to see this piece by an experienced science writer ( not a researcher). 

Then click here to see a longer piece discussing quite a bit more research,  " Reading Makes us Smarter and Nicer " . 

The gist is that " ...individuals who often read fiction appear to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and view the world from their perspective. " 


Google defines " empathize " as the ability to understand and share feelings with another. I will accept as a postulate that the ability to empathize is essential to health. 


More Research about Reading: 

Here is yet another piece describing some illuminating research in the new field of " literary neuroscience" . Click here to see the article entitled " How Reading Lights Up Your Mind". 

For a detailed an amusing account of some fairly recent and credible research, see " This is your brain on Jane Austen, and Stanford researchers are taking notes". 


Essays about reading: 

Here are two beautiful and compelling essays by two contemporary authors which will surely inspire: 

Lev Grossman, author of the Magicians Trilogy

Neil Gaiman

Here is an essay citing the benefits of reading for those in recovery form addiction. It calls reading : " the ultimate brain exercise " . 


Summary about effects of reading: 

Click here to see an excellent summary about what reading does to the brain. Effects include: 

creation of visual imagery

exercise the language parts of your brain 

create virtual experience which can be useful in performance in real life

deep literary reading provides the greatest effect on the brain

reading in a new language produces brain growth

reading ebooks causes the brain to make adaptations 

reading material with story structure increases attention span

deep literary reading produces increases in white matter 

deep reading makes us more empathetic. 


How to become a reader : 

Check out this great blog post with a point by point set of instructions on how to become a great reader.