Ok, I can hear your reaction.
You are thinking ‘Gareth, why the hell would I sign myself up for more reading?! I am already doing a university degree‘.
And that is a very good point. But hear me out.
Reading seems to be one of those activities that is both cognitively rewarding but also cognitively relaxing.
What the hell do I mean by that?
When you read you are both exercising your brain (learning new stuff, taking different perspectives, focusing your attention) but also relaxing your brain (giving it a break from the problems of everyday life, engaging creative other parts of the brain). Thus for many people, recreational reading (i.e. not connected to your work or study) is a mentally rejuvenating activity. They feel better for doing it, not further encumbered.
You don’t have to believe just me though. Google ‘benefits of reading‘ and you’ll find hundreds of varying quality articles on the topic 🙂
Benefits of reading
These guys found that reading groups helped individuals with depression improve their social, emotional and mental health – https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/media/livacuk/iphs/web_version_therapeutic_benefits_of_reading_final_report_Mar.pdf
These peeps found that book reading was associated with greater longevity – you live longer! – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953616303689
These curious people found that reading might help facilitate personality growth – https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2009-01844-004
More frequent ‘cognitive activity across the life span has an association with slower late-life cognitive decline’ – meaning read more now, delay cognitive decline in later age – https://n.neurology.org/content/81/4/314
Reading fiction improves your ability to understand the thoughts and feelings of others – https://science.sciencemag.org/content/342/6156/377.abstract
Exposure to literature can make you a better thinker – https://www.salon.com/2013/06/15/book_nerds_make_better_decisions_partner/
If you are a regular reader, you are probably already acutely aware of the benefits. I don’t need to convince you.
If you are like me and haven’t developed a strong reading habit, you might find it a welcome addition to your daily life. I’ve cut my screen time (TV) so I can spend more time reading. Over the Xmas break I got through 4 books, which for me is a lot. I’ve found it to be relaxing, thought provoking and a great cure for boredom. It can also be very low-cost. I am reading ebooks from the library for free.
Paper or digital?
There is some evidence (this, this) that paper books might be better than those read on tablet or digital devices, but I try not to be too fussy. I read normal and digital books depending on what is available. The key for me is not so much the medium on which I am reading, but that I am selecting and reading books (rather than browsing articles on the web). There seems to be something different about committing to reading a complete book versus browsing articles on the web. I think it has something to do with the fact that we skim read a lot of web content, versus deep reading books.
What is Goodreads?
Goodreads is a social media site based around reading. You can track what you’ve read, what you want to read, and what you are reading currently and share that with friends and groups. You can leave reviews of things you’ve read, read the reviews of others to find your next book and engage in various community activities (groups, discussions, connect with authors, share your own writing etc). It is available as an app and website and despite a fairly uninspiring colour and design, works well.
My profile is here: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/33270523-gareth-furber. I’m mostly reading psychology and mental health related books at the moment, so you might find some interesting options there. I plan on expanding my reading topics over time though.
Get yourself a profile and start reading! I may look into creating a ‘Reading for Wellbeing‘ bookclub down the track if enough students are interested – let me know if you’d find such a bookclub interesting.