Before I became a parent I used to wake up around 6 AM every morning, made myself some coffee and spent at least an hour or two reading – not news or fiction but a book about something interesting and of consequence on psychology, history, economics, philosophy… This practice almost invariably charged up my batteries with ideas, energy and enthusiasm and each day started with excitement about what I could accomplish that day. I’ve recently come across an article that distinguished this kind of reading from the more casual kind (newspapers, magazines, e-mail stack…) calling it “deep reading,” which explained, sort of, why I so enjoyed this routine.
Apparently, slow, immersive reading provides a complex workout for the brain in multiple cognitive functions, promoting brain health and boosting the reader’s levels of empathy, reflection and analysis. It also seems to stimulate the areas of the brain that allow the reader to feel as though they are experiencing the events they read about. More emotionally charged prose appears to have a similar stimulating effect on the brain as listening to music. In sum, perhaps in reading we have an effective, low cost way to better enjoy life, and improve ourselves as human beings at the same time.