Reading is Good for You, Especially 'Complex Poetry' and Books
Reading offers more than stress-reduction
Did you know that reading actually makes you smarter? But it does matter what you read as well. Reading well-written poetry is at the top of the list for feeding your brain and keeping it sharp!
Reading Poetry Is Good for Your Brain
It is common knowledge that you can live a longer, healthier life if you regularly get your heart rate up with workouts that keep your heart healthy, but what about your brain?
Mental stimulation is a workout for your brain, and reading is a fantastic way to give your brain the exercise it needs to be sharp and healthy. In fact, Science Direct reports the findings of one Yale study that shows a link between reading and prolonged life.
So that urge you are feeling to grab a good book and curl up in your favorite chair for a few moments of escape — could be your brain yearning for a bit of healthy mental stimulation!
Reading is healthy for you in a lot of ways, not just as a way to conquer your stress and have some quiet time, although these alone are reason enough to curl up for some reading time. Business Insider has a great article on their website detailing 14 Ways Reading Improves Your Mind and Body. Take a look at some of these benefits of reading that you may not have considered:
- Reading improves the body’s ability to relax and reduces stress
- Reading provides mental stimulation
- Reading brings existing neural pathways in the brain to life
- Reading complex poetry, in particular, helps the brain remain elastic and active
- Reading Helps keep memory and learning capacity sharp
- Reading helps keep your mind hardy as you age
- Reading improves imagination
- Prolongs life: Readers live longer and have cognitive advantage among the elderly
Some of this I learned while sitting “Indian-style” (is that term used anymore or has it been replaced with something more politically correct? If so, pardon my term but it is the term I learned in school back in the day when we were less sensitive with these kinds of things.) with my first-grade class.
We’d all sit in rows on the thin carpet and stare with craned necks up at the television screen watching Reading Rainbow and learning about all the ways reading would make our lives more fun, imaginative, and full of knowledge.
As it turns out, Reading Rainbow had it right. And now we know the science to show a longer life for readers.
Science Supports Reading Poetry as Good for Your Brain
For example in one study, 3635 participants over the age of 50 were asked by researchers at Yale University to report their reading habits and were divided based on the amount of time they reported reading, then were followed up with after 12 years to see how they fared. The study also compared readers to non-readers and the effects of different types of reading such as magazine and newspaper and book reading.
The study found a significant advantage in mortality for book readers vs non- readers or readers of magazines and newspapers. Readers fared better than non-readers, and book readers shared the highest advantage. The article summarizing the study “A chapter a day: Association of book reading with longevity” showed a 23-month advantage in mortality for readers vs. non-readers.
Book readers as opposed to other forms of reading, “experienced a 20% reduction in risk of mortality over the 12 years of follow up compared to non-book readers” as reported by the Yale study, determining a bit more of an advantage to reading books specifically. Reading functioned as a “cognitive mediator” according to the study. The study also showed that the people who read the most were college-educated women of higher income levels.
Check out the graphic below from the Business Insider website, of which I am excited because of number 2 which says:·
Reading complex poetry, in particular, helps the brain remain elastic and active.
As a poet myself, this is thrilling news!
With respect to memory specifically, when you are reading books you have to imagine scenes, settings, and characters, but you also have to remember all of this who, what, when, and where. When you are reading poetry, you have to take it a step further and decipher complex meanings within the words and form of the poem.
Besides the basic premise of what you are reading, whether fiction or nonfiction, you have to remember what you have just read in order for the information or story to make sense as you read along. In fiction, there will be sub-plots and characters that disappear from the story and reappear later. In non-fiction, there are important details that will crop back up later in the reading that is crucial to the narrative.
As you read, you are exercising the brain’s ability to process the information and remember it as we read further, and to do these memory tasks efficiently, very much like running on a regular basis trains the heart to respond more efficiently to the stress of the exertion.
Reading is healthy for you in a lot of ways but for there to be a correlation between reading and prolonged life, while also being a stress-reducer, and improved cognitive function, one could make a heavy argument to pick up a good book today. I would personally argue that the more engaged your mind must be to interpret the material, say reading poetry or literary fiction (which improves Theory of Mind), for example, the better!
You will certainly not be wasting your time. If anyone asks, tell them you are exercising!