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  • Writer's pictureSarahHauer

Why Should I Read for Fun?

I'm too busy. Reading for pleasure is just a waste of time, right? Wrong!

I've noticed not many people read for fun anymore, which is surprising as we are coming out of a pandemic where we were all locked up at home. We should have all been reading like crazy

Why don't people read for fun anymore? Well, for one thing, we all watch way too much tv, me included. Netflix has become a staple in my home. I'm not proud of that, but there it is on my tv.

We think we don't have time. If we knew the health benefits to reading, we might make more time to read. There are real health benefits. I'll talk about those shortly.

Fictional work is all make believe. We live in the real world. However, fiction helps us problem solve in the real world. It's true. I'll get to that in a minute too.

It's boring. It that's the case, you need to expand your library. Badly.

Reading is a lonely activity. You have a choice here. You can either read sitting next to someone you care about, or you can get into the characters in your book. You won't be lonely then.

Films are more entertaining and take less time. I can kind of agree with that. However, watching a film is watching someone else's vision of a good story instead of developing your own vision. Developing your own internal vision of a story increases your own imagination and creative energy which is more helpful in the real world.

Now that we've covered reasons for not reading for fun, let's talk health benefits.

According to Christopher Bergland, The Athlete's Way,

reading a novel, in other words, reading for fun, enhances brain connections. Remember neuroplasticity and the brain's ability to grow and change throughout life? This is it in action. Apparently, reading a novel has a similar affect on the brain as visualization does for an athlete. It mentally puts you into that activity. For example, if you read about doing a physical activity such as riding a bike, the neurons used in the brain while actually riding a real bike light up on fMRI (functional MRI). The neural transmitters are working whether you are riding a bike or reading about riding a bike.

Reading for fun helps develop a sense of empathy or compassion in another person. Reading about a character who is experiencing a traumatic event helps the reader put themselves into that character's shoes and experience it to some degree as well. For example, in my book Shattered Crystal,

the lead character is battling lupus as she also helps to catch a killer of a client of the law firm she works for. My hope in writing the book is for people to come away with a better sense of the frustrations of living with a persistent autoimmune disease such as lupus. Personally, I feel if reading for fun increases compassion for others, then we all should have continued reading assignments for years after we are done with school.

Reading fiction for fun helps increase the imagination and creativity of the reader. Exercising the imaginative and creative aspects of the brain can help with problem solving capabilities in the real world.

It can also help with symptoms of depression just as art such as painting does by providing an outlet for emotional expression.

One of the things I like about reading versus waiting for the movie version to come out is the ability to visualize things they way I would visualize a literary situation versus being limited to a director's vision for a particular scene. Reading a novel about a Civil War soldier returning home after the treaty is signed and the war is over might create more vivid images in my head coming from the perspective of going home myself after significant time away helping me relate more to the character versus the vision of a director who has control over the background and camera angles in a movie of the same story. My vision of the scene will be more personal to me.

Symptoms of depression are also alleviated by providing a character the reader may relate to in a similar way that personal friends and other social connections. We all want friends, right? People we can lean on when life gets difficult? Who better to understand the stresses of everyday life than a character who murders their boss over a refusal to grant a raise that covers the rate of inflation during a season of severe recession.

In general, reading for any reason increases cognitive abilities such as vocabulary and writing. It can actually increase your job skills. Reading about a pirate treasure hunt may help with that presentation you have at work next week.

Reading is a healthy escape from our own mundane lives. When you can't take another load of laundry today, a dose of a romance novel might be just the ticket to help you forget about that growing pile until you are ready to tackle it again.

There are lots of great reasons for picking up a book and reading for fun. Some of those reasons are downright healthy for cognitive health and emotional well-being. I barely touched on the benefits here.

If you have read enough to be motivated to pick up a book, I know of two available for purchase both by me: Shattered Crystal and Between Layers of Earth. Plus, another book is well on its way: The Power of Ketchup. A shameless plug? Absolutely!

But you don't have to read one of my books to reap the benefits. Check out your local library or bookstore and engross yourself in someone else's life for a little while. It will make you smarter in the end.

Thanks for reading!



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