Reading helped me become a better person
I grew up reading four-five books a week. Then, college happened, and long evenings with a book were replaced with movie nights with friends. Reading took a backseat. Things got even worse when I started working, and there was a period from 2015 to 2017, where I must have read barely 30 books in three years.
On the surface, everything was alright. I was “busy”.
But, deep down, I missed reading so bad, it was almost like this ache in my chest.
In 2018, I resolved to get back to being a reader. That year, I read 24 books. 12 of which were in the last two months. In 2019, I finished 81 books. There are two months to go before 2020 ends, and I have read almost 60 books so far. In total, I have read 152 books since October 2018.
If you look at my statistics, I have read more than 150+ books in the past two years. And this has changed my life.
This post is going to discuss all the positive impacts reading had on my life and how you can apply them to build a reading habit.
Before we get started, here’s a disclaimer: I am not going to teach you how to read 150 books in two years, but I am listing the positive impacts so you can find your way to becoming a regular reader and watch your life improve.
Reading Can Fix Your Routine
With considerable willpower, I kept my phone on a dresser far away from my bed when I went to sleep at night. Instead, I took my Kindle with me. The benefits of this small habit were multifold:
No social media
I stopped scrolling through social media for several minutes as I had done previously. Instead, I spent that time reading.
Studies have shown that reading before going to bed can help reduce stress, boost your brainpower, increase your own creativity, and help you sleep better.
Better ideas and improved creativity
Since there wasn’t a phone next to me, the first thing I did after waking up was to reach for my Kindle and read for a few minutes before starting my day. This helped me connect with where I had left the story on the previous night — a trait that made me fall in love with the book even more.
Furthermore, it has been established that reading can have numerous health benefits.
Reading even for a few minutes in the morning produces the hormones that boost your immunity, improve your communication skills, and enhance your memory.
The most tangible benefit
Because I knew I had kept these time slots aside for reading, my routine was fixed. I knew I had to read for a few minutes in bed, so I woke up early to accommodate that. I also started going to bed a few minutes early in anticipation of the story I was going to read.
Reading was non-negotiable. I adjusted the rest of my habits to include more time for books in my life. In a way, reading helped me become more disciplined.
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned how reading helped me lose 5 Kgs in a month. The discipline my books gave me played a huge role in this change.
- From the largely indisciplined life I led post-college, reading helped me get back on track with inculcating a No Matter What mindset.
- It also taught me to find pleasure in working hard — a trait I have grown to cherish over the months.
If you are familiar with Parkinson’s Law, it states that work expands to fill the time allotted for it.
That means that if I want to read more, I need to make time to do so — and my work will just have to fit into the remaining smaller amount of time.
And that’s exactly how reading helped me become more mindful of all the tasks I had to do in the remaining hours of the day. Working out was a priority, so sticking to the exercise routine was not very hard.
Reading Can Help You Become A Better Learner
Studies have shown that reading stimulates the parts of the brain that lead to a slower rate of decline in memory and other mental capacities with age. In the paper What Reading Does for the Mind, it was found that reading can compensate for average cognitive ability by expanding general knowledge.
As Ken Pugh, PhD, president and director of research of the Yale-affiliated Haskins Laboratories, which is devoted to the science of language, says:
“Just like muscles, the brain benefits from a good workout. And reading is more neurobiologically demanding than processing images or speech. As you’re absorbing, say, this article, parts of the brain that have evolved for other functions — such as vision, language, and associative learning — connect in a specific neural circuit for reading, which is very challenging.”
I have noticed that most of my reader friends are more accepting to new information, and can notice aspects that go beyond what is visible on the surface. Personally, here is how reading has helped me become a better learner:
Reading fiction (thrillers, to be specific) requires a considerable amount of concentration. I have learned to look for every clue, every foreshadowing, and identify every red herring the author might have thrown in. This has helped me become mindful not only while reading but also while consuming content in any form.
Fantasy fiction mostly comes in the form of a series of three books or longer. Reading them requires a huge investment of time and effort. This has developed my patience and I no longer look for instant gratification. While learning something or working on a new skill, I don’t get frustrated if I don’t receive dividends immediately.
- Upgrading your attitude towards discomfort and pain: How can you afford to be dissatisfied while reading the first book of a ten-book series, knowing that your questions will only be answered after 10,000+ pages?
- Paying attention when the irritation/pain starts: Most of the times, one gets impatient when things are not working the way they want them to. Reading books that require commitment helps you focus on what’s actually happening inside your head, and identify what’s holding you back.
Enhanced analytical thinking skills
Consistent reading helps you develop your analytical thinking skills over time. It stimulates your brain and allows you to think in new ways. When you are actively engaged in what you’re reading, you would be able to ask better questions, look at things from a different perspective, identify patterns and make connections.
Compared to other forms of media, books let you take time off to think. This teaches you to reflect on what you learned and allow new thoughts and ideas to form in your brain.
Reading Can Help You Become A Better Writer
As someone who writes on a daily basis, I can vouch that there are times — more frequent than I’d like to admit — when I feel stuck, like I have no talent and I will never make it as a writer.
These are the times when I go back to a favourite book and read through a chapter or two. I feel awed by the author’s beautiful prose and character building and start wishing I could write something as touching as that. That’s when a voice inside my head screams that I am a writer too, and if I wish, I can write something like that.
In a flash, the insecurity is gone and I start feeling excited about writing again.
That is the magic of books. They start making you believe that you can do it too. They make your head buzz with creative ideas and force you to get back to writing, no matter how lost you might have been feeling.
There have been studies that establish reading more books help a person become a better writer.
- Reading exposes you to a variety of writing styles and allows you to study grammar in context.
- It exposes you to writing that’s better than your own and helps you improve.
- It helps you ideate better and come up with more possible stories and articles than you would have otherwise.
- It expands your vocabulary and improves your imagination.
Reading Can Help You Become A Better Person
Reading more books, especially fiction has helped me imagine myself in situations outside of my comfort zone, and broaden my worldview.
It has given me a look into the minds of characters in various situations — a knowledge that has helped me look at my life through a lens of new realisations. This gave me the closure of several earlier-unresolved issues from my past.
Books have made me more open-minded and accepting of differences. They have given me a reason to get rid of prejudices and conditioning I had stuck on to since childhood.
They made me feel less alone, in the sense that I found kindred souls in characters of the books I read. I realised that no matter what I may be facing, there are other people going through the same. If they have bounced back, so can I.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons
When I made a conscious decision to incorporate more reading into my life, I didn’t do it with an agenda to become a better learner, a better writer, or a better person. I did it because reading gave me peace, and I there was nothing more I loved than losing myself in the pages of a book.
Undoubtedly, reading can help you become a better version of yourself, but you need to approach books with love, and not with the intention of achieving a particular number in a period of time.
I am concluding this piece with a quote from How Reading Changed My Life for you to ponder over.
“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.”
― Anna Quindlen