What’s something the world’s most powerful people have in common? They read. Every day.
It’s true. Look up any article that professes to teach you “10 Habits of Highly Successful People” and you will most certainly find daily reading on that list.
Why? Are they all just a bunch of nerds?
And I’m trying to get on that same nerd level. You should, too. Here’s why.
Benefits of a Daily Reading Habit
1. It makes you smarter.
Which, is obvious right? Read more. Learn more.
But it’s actually deeper than that.
Strong early reading skills in children predict higher intelligence later on in life. It’s why reading to your little ones and exposing them to a robust and diverse vocabulary is critically important at a young age.
There was a study done in the 1990’s that showed that by age 3, poorer children were exposed to 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers. That “word gap” follows the children into kindergarten and has implications for their academic prospects throughout the rest of their lives.
Literacy matters and its value doesn’t stop upon graduation.
(Can you tell I used to be an English teacher?)
If you want to create habits in your life that help you achieve success and excel over your peers, you need to be a forever student. You gotta read!
What does “smarter” mean in this case?
Increased vocabulary and analytical thinking skills. I’ll take those!
2. Reading boosts your brain power.
Getting into a good book is like a workout for your brain. A daily reading habit is just like a daily fitness habit.
In a study published in the journal Neurology, researchers found that elderly subjects who routinely engaged in “mentally strenuous activities” like reading showed significantly slower cognitive decline. On the flip side, subjects who rarely engaged in mentally strenuous activities saw a 48% faster decline than everyone else.
Now the kicker here is to maximize your benefits, the text should be somewhat challenging and force to you stop and think. If that sounds about as fun as watching paint dry, you can still get benefits with lighter texts.
You’ll still be doing much better than your TV addicted counterparts.
3. Reading helps improve concentration.
I used to be able to sit down and tear into a book, essay, or project for school. It was easy for me to get into that state of flow and hyper-productivity.
Of course, that was back in the very early 2000’s when social media wasn’t really a thing and I didn’t even have a cellphone. The number of distractions in my life were significantly less.
These days, though?
I sometimes feel like I have the attention span of a gnat. The entire world is constantly pinging with some message, notification, or faux urgency.
Reading helps combat all of that noise. It requires us to set all that technology and distraction aside (at least it should) and singularly focus on one task.
That’s why a solid reading habit is so important. It helps you build those concentration muscles so you don’t fall victim to the head-spinning, multitasking rat race of every day life.
You can actually be productive!
4. Reading makes you more empathetic.
Honestly, isn’t that something we could all use a little more of these days?
This is for all you fiction fans out there! Reading fiction makes you nicer. It improves your ability to see things from another person’s perspective and relate to people who are different from you.
If you live in an especially homogenous part of the world, it’s a great opportunity to step into someone else’s shoes for a bit.
5. Reading every night can help you sleep better.
A lot of people are looking for ways to improve their sleep. Turns out reading can help you with that!
Reading helps us relax. A 2009 study by the University of Sussex found that reading for six minutes can reduce stress levels by up to 68%.
That makes it a perfect wind down activity. The only catch is that it is preferable to do this reading the old fashioned way – with a real paper book by a reading lamp.
Well, because screens. The little blue lights they emit can disrupt your body’s natural circadian rhythms and make sleep more difficult.
That being said, I use a Kindle Paperwhite E-Reader and have not had any screen-related issues with it. The screen appears just like a paper book (to my eyes) and you can pretty easily adjust brightness and text size.
ANNNNDDDD, the newer models are waterproof for those of you who are pool readers.
If you’re going to read at night, pick something that’s pretty easy reading but not something so enthralling that you stay up all night because you just have to know what happens next.
Okay, that’s all well and good, but I have ZERO time.
Nonsense! We spend an average of 2 hours and 16 minutes mindlessly scrolling and liking posts on social media every day. You can devote 10-15 minutes of that time to reading.
You just have to make it a priority by consciously incorporating it into your daily routine.
I’m a nighttime reader. Part of my routine is to read for 15-30 minutes and then I do a sleep meditation which is a nice way of saying I listen to someone with a soothing voice before nodding off.
If you take public transportation to work, maybe your commute is a good time to get some reading done.
The pros will tell you they read at least an hour per day. If you can swing it and feel motivated to do it, then by all means. If that sounds completely impossible, commit to five minutes per day and go from there.
Reading hacks for the broke and/or busy
1. Go to the library.
Well, I’m posting this in June 2020 so chances are the library is closed BUT did you know you can checkout ebooks using your library card? Check out apps like Hoopla or Libby. You can download them to your phone, computer, or e-reader. It’s fabulous!
2. Get a Kindle Unlimited subscription.
Kindle has really improved their unlimited library offerings in recent months. If you are a quick reader and like to tear through some delicious fiction (or nonfiction), it’s definitely worth trying.
You can get a 30-day free trial to give it a test drive. If you love it, they have 6, 12 and 24 month plan offerings and it’s good for ebooks as well as some audio books. Check out Kindle Unlimited here if you want to give it a go.
3. Try Blinkist.
I LOVE the Blinkist app so much and use it daily. If you’re not familiar, it’s like a digital Cliff Notes, but way better. You get 10-15 minute summaries of a bazillion nonfiction titles called blinks.
What’s great about them is that the summaries are designed to give you the most important insights from the book so you can get a whole picture without reading 200+ pages.
If you are super busy, but still want to learn as much as you can, this app is VERY useful. You can read the blinks or listen to them. There’s also an option to highlight important takeaways and save your faves.
Now if you reallllly love a book’s blink and want to buy the whole she-bang, they make that pretty easy to do as well. You can do it right in the app.
They offer a 7-day trial and then you have the option to pay for it monthly or get a discount for subscribing for a year. Cost is on par with Kindle Unlimited.
If you’re interested in giving it a try, you can sign up for a free trial to Blinkist here.