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3 Reasons Why Reading is Important

EP 88: 3 Reasons Why Reading is Important

EP 88: 3 Reasons Why Reading is Important

Reading is a crucial skill that all of us must learn. A person who reads exercises their comprehension abilities and analytical abilities. Imagination and memory recall is stimulated through reading. It also helps in stabilizing your emotions too. 

In this episode, we will discuss the three reasons why reading is essential and why we should make it a habit. Towards the end of the discussion, we will dive into a book that we have read in the past year that we enjoyed reading. Be prepared because we are going to dive into life and philosophy on this one.  

History of Reading

The National Library Lover’s Month is in February. It’s dedicated to the people who love whole buildings devoted to reading, housing, organizing, categorizing, finding, studying, and otherwise loving books. Join us as we tackle another excellent episode of Cup of Nurses!

Where Did It All Start?

Around 4,000 to 6,000 BCE, Mesopotamia started the first known human civilization. This changed the course of history discovered in these city-states, the earliest known form of writing, cuneiform, and script.

It started with some squiggles on clay to represent a goat and an ox, this form was good to depict the list of goods. But, what exactly do human beings get from reading books? It is just a matter of reading for pleasure, or are there benefits behind the enjoyment of reading? 

The 3 Benefits of Reading 

Reading transports us to worlds we would never go to, and never see. It introduces us to people we would never meet and instills emotions we might never otherwise feel without reading. Are there other benefits? Reading books benefits both your physical and mental health as well.

1. Reading reduces stress

Put simply, by opening a book, you allow yourself to be invited into an artistic world that distracts you from your daily stressors. On a physical level, reading can even relax your body by lowering your heart rate and easing the tension in your muscles [1].

In a 2009 study from the consultancy Mindlab International at the University of Sussex, tests found that reading reduced stress levels by 68 percent. Thus making it a more effective means of relaxation than taking a walk (by 42%), drinking a cup of tea (54%), or listening to music (61%). 

In another study in 2009 as well, a group of researchers measured the effects of yoga, humor, and reading on stress levels of health science program students in the United States.

The study found that 30 minutes of reading lowered blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of psychological distress just as effectively as yoga and humor did. Lastly, 30 minutes devoted to reading is something that can easily be incorporated into your daily schedule [2]. 

2. Reading strengthens your brain 

A small study in 2013 found that reading a novel increased communication between parts of the brain that control language processing [3].

These changes could be segregated into networks associated with short-term changes originating near the left angular gyrus (Langauge, reading & writing) and long-term changes dispersed bilaterally in the somatosensory cortex (receives and process sensory information across the body). 

Reading creates new neural pathways in the brain, this process is known as neurogenesis. Neurogenesis creates neurons that send messages and transmit information to different parts of the brain. How is this possible?

Reading books require thoughts, consideration, and effort to metabolize what’s being described in the book, which leads to the creation of new neurons. The question remains for further research to study how lasting are these effects. 

3. Reading percent age-related cognitive decline

Having an active life, mentally, is generally one of the best things you can do to protect yourself from Alzheimer’s. Cognition includes the ability to learn, remember, and make judgments.

A study published in 2020, a 14-year longitudinal study with a representative sample of 1,962 Taiwanese community-dwelling older persons aged 64 and above, followed up in four waves of surveys over 14 years [4].

Results showed that those who read one or more times a week were less likely to have cognitive decline at 6-year and 14-year intervals. After 14 years, older people who read more often had a reduced risk of cognitive decline compared to those who read less often. 

Reading is even associated with a lower risk of dementia. In a very large 2018 study in China,  15,582 community-living Chinese individuals aged 65 years or older who were free of dementia were followed up for a median period of 5 years [5].

Daily participation in intellectual activities was associated with a significantly lower risk of dementia several years later independent of other health behaviors, physical health limitations, and sociodemographic factors.

How to Make Reading a Habit

The easiest way to start reading more is to schedule it in your daily life. If you assign it into your planner or schedule, it’ll be harder to miss, having that accountability.

If you are trying to take better care of yourself with activities such as – sleep, nutrition, & exercise, you will want to schedule it into your daily life. 

Other tips:

  1. Keep a book with you when traveling or commuting places
  2. Reading books on topics you want to learn more about or are interested in
  3. Reading a book when you wake up or before bed
  4. Be patient – reading, like any skill/habit, takes time to develop

The Books We Like

We are avid readers and among the books that we’ve read, here are three of the best books that made us more conscious of ourselves and life in general.

1. Jordan Peterson – 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos

It provides life advice through essays on abstract ethical principles, psychology, mythology, religion, and personal anecdotes. The book pushes the idea that people are born with an instinct for ethics and meaning and should take the responsibility of searching for meaning beyond their own interests. 

The critical idea of the book is that suffering is built into being. Being in the material and immaterial existence of a thing. With suffering people have a choice through life to either face it and transcend or withdraw which is almost a suicidal gesture.

He stresses that we live in a world of chaos and order and that everyone has a darkness that can turn them into the monster they are capable of being. However, when that darkness has a focus the impulse can be satisfied in the right situation.

Happiness Should Be a Byproduct

Another key point he brings up is happiness. Happiness should not be a goal of life it should be a byproduct or side effect of your life. Happiness should not be an aim because it’s not something that can stay there, it’s unpredictable and changing.

When you are unhappy does that mean you are a failure or failing? Happiness is based on perception and with perception, you don’t always realize what’s there.

The Gorilla Test does a good job of showing you how your perception changes based on what you are doing. Gorilla test conclusion: results indicate that the relationship between what is in one’s visual field and perception is based much more on attention than was previously thought. 

2. 12 Rules for Life Proposed by Jordan B. Peterson

If you like self-help books, this one is a good read. There are plenty of lessons and virtues that you can get from this book. Here’s our take on this book:

  1. “Stand up straight with your shoulders back.”
    • All animals including humans are governed by an internal hierarchy that is involuntary and biochemical. JBP talks about lobsters in this sense. When 2 lobsters square up for battle a winner is chosen before a fight occurs and many times it does not even lead to a physical battle.
    • Dominant lobsters have high serotonin to octopamine ratio leading to greater confidence, posture, and strength. That works in the human and nonaquatic world as well. In addition to that, stronger animals get more food, better homes, higher status, better mates, and cooperation from others. 
    • There is a really harsh passage from the bible that goes: (Matthew 25:29) “to those who have everything, more will be given; from those who have nothing, everything will be taken.”
    • The recommendation JBP gives in this section is to always wake up at a similar time each day. You don’t have to go to bed at the same time each night but waking up is crucial.
    • Don’t slouch, fix your posture and give eye contact because when both of those are poor it signals weakness. 
  2. “Treat yourself like you are someone you are responsible for helping.”
    • JBP brings up another fundamental t chaos and order, that fundamental is to consciousness. Consciousness is how you bridge the gap between chaos and order and that consciousness allows you to function in whichever manner you choose. 
    • What we should truly be doing for ourselves isn’t what we want and it is also something that doesn’t make us happy. No one understands us better than ourselves and no one can help us more than ourselves. 
  3. “Make friends with people who want the best for you.”
    • The environment around us shapes us. He asks the question if you have friends whose friendship you wouldn’t recommend to others why would you have that friend? 
    • We become the average of the people we spend the most time with. 
  4. “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.”
    • No matter how competent and accomplished you are there is always someone out there better.
    • Life is not just a game it’s you playing many games at the same time. If we are always playing the same game and always winning there is no difficulty, there is no growth. 
    • Pay attention, focus on your surroundings notice that something bothers you, concerns you, something that you just want to change. 
      • What is it that is bothering me?
      • Is that something I can fix?
      • Will I actually be willing to fix it?
    • What could I do, that I would do, to make Life a little better?
  5. “Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.”
    • Children are constant learners trying to figure out where the boundary lies. They are always trying to figure out what the limit is, that is how they learn what they can and can not do.
    • If you want your children to talk more you need to communicate with them first. 
    • Raising children is having the ability to properly create order in chaos. Giving the child the right amount of adventure while still enforcing good behaviors.
    • Studies show that if a child does not learn the basics of socialization and discipline it will be a lot harder for them to learn later in life. 
      • Limit the rules
      • Use the least amount of force possible to enforce those rules
    • Don’t be a revengeful parent
    • As a parent, you are the proxy for the real world
  6. “Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.”
    • Many, perhaps even most, of the adults who abuse children were abused themselves as children. However, the majority of people who were abused as children do not abuse their own children.
    • Ask yourself, have you cleaned up your life?
      • Start with not doing what you know is wrong
      • Stop questioning the things you are doing wrong when you know they are wrong. 
  7. “Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient).”
    • The successful delay gratification they bargain with the future. The successful sacrifice. 
    • What are your values and do you follow them? Are they in your reality? You may have to sacrifice something you love best for you to become who you might become instead of saying who you are.
    • The one who wants to bring out the best of all possible futures will always make the greatest sacrifices. 
    • No tree can grow to heaven if its roots don’t reach hell 
    • Realize that thinking about life in a meaningful way is a difficult task for many individuals. Think about it this way CO2 emissions are relevant but are they relevant to someone that is hungry? 
    • Always aim up fix what you can but don’t be willfully blind or arrogant of others and your surroundings. 
  8. “Tell the truth — or, at least, don’t lie.”
    • Nazi Germany was built on small lies. 
    • What should you do when you don’t know what to do? Tell the truth. To accept truth mean to sacrifice. 
    • Don’t lie to yourself. Are your goals really aligned with what you want to be doing or plan on doing? 
  9. “Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.”
    • Memory isn’t only a tool for the past, it is something that guides your future. However, memory is there to stop you from doing the same thing. 
    • For many listening is too dangerous, they have an impulse to evaluate. It takes courage to listen. But if you listen, people will talk.
  10. “Be precise in your speech.”
    • The only way you can get your needs out is through speech. Furthermore, speech directs your actions and lets others know your wants and needs. 
  11. “Do not bother children when they are skateboarding.”
    • We are hard-wired to enjoy risk, but it’s the chaos that helps us develop. 
    • People compete to rise to the top. There is no reward without risk.
  12. “Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.”
    • Maybe when you are going for a walk and your head is spinning a cat will show up. And if you pay attention to it then you will get a reminder for just fifteen seconds that the wonder of this being might make up for the ineradicable suffering that accompanies it.

3. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Meditations is a collection of 12 books written by Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, who’ll introduce you to Stoic philosophy, the concept of logic, and self-discipline, and give you faith that the course the world runs is good. Aurelius called them “writings to myself.”

Book Chapters and Their Summary

Book 1 

Marcus Aurelius thanks those to whom he is indebted. His father showed him to be humble, frugal, and calm; his mother for teaching him to be generous and non-materialistic; and his teachers taught him the value of hard work, self-discipline, equanimity, rationality, humor, and tolerance.

Book 2 

Aurelius reminds us that each day we will meet some terrible people. He says death, is nothing to fear; it can’t hurt us. But what is most important about us is our minds.

We shouldn’t let them be slaves to selfish passions, argued with fate, or be anxious about the present or afraid of the future.

We can’t guarantee fame or fortune, but we can keep our minds calm and free from injury, a state superior to both pleasure and pain. Freedom is the control of our minds. 

Book 3

Aurelius tells us to be mindful of little things like cracks in a loaf of bread, and the texture of figs and olives. He says to think and talk about things you would not be ashamed of if they were found out. There is nothing more valuable than a mind pursuing truth, justice, temperance, fortitude, rationality, and the like.

Book 4

Aurelius tells us that we can always find solitude in our own minds. If our minds are serene, we will find peace and happiness. As for how others view us, we have little control over this.

Book 5

Aurelius says to get up each day and do good work. We need to act naturally and contribute to society without expecting payment or gratitude for doing good deeds. Instead, be satisfied with being like a vine that bears good fruit. Virtue is its own reward. 

Book 6

Aurelius disavows revenge, not to imitate injury. It is our duty to act righteously and not be disturbed by the rest. Think of good things and control your mind. 

Book 7 

Aurelius advocates patience and tolerance. Nature works like wax, continually transforming—so be patient. Evil people try our patience and tolerance, but we can remain happy by controlling our response to them.

Book 8 

Aurelius argues that being disconnected from humanity is like cutting off one of your own limbs. Instead, live connected to nature and other people. No matter what you encounter maintain a moderate and controlled mind.

Last Chapters 

Books 9, 10, 11

Aurelius argues that we should be moderate, sincere, honest, and calm. If someone reports that you are not virtuous, dispel such notions with your integrity, and use humor to disarm the worst people. Kill them with kindness essentially. 

Book 12 

Aurelius asks why we love ourselves best, but so often value the opinion of others over our own. This is a mistake. Remember too that the destiny of the greatest and worst of human beings is the same—they all turn to ashes.

One of the last things that Aurelius wrote in his tent, in modern-day Austria, “Life is warfare and a stranger’s sojourn (temporary stay), and after fame, oblivion.”

To watch the full Episode 88, click here for more:

TIME STAMPS:

0:00 – Intro
0:46 – Plugs
2:50 – Episode Introduction
7:56 – History of Reading
9:23 – Reading reduces stress
14:20 – Reading strengthens your brain
18:25 – Reading percent age-related cognitive decline
26:50 – How to make reading a habit
29:42 – Peter on “Jordan Peterson – 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote to Chaos”
33:22 – Rule 1: “Stand up straight with your shoulders back.”
36:00 – Rule 2: “Treat yourself like you are someone you are responsible for helping.”
36:53 – Rule 3: “Make friends with people who want the best for you.”
37:58 – Rule 5: “Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.”
39:10 – Rule 6: “Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.”
41:07 – RUle 7: “Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient).”
42:15 – Rule 8: “Tell the truth — or, at least, don’t lie.”
45:46 – Rule 9: “Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.”
47:04 – Rule 10: “Be precise in your speech.”
48:43 – Rule 11: “Do not bother children when they are skateboarding.”
49:28 – Rule 12: “Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.”
51:13 – Matt on “Meditations: by Marcus Aurelius”
51:57 – Meditations: Books 1 to 12

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