A Heart for Wisdom

A Heart for Wisdom
February 8, 2018

Get In a Good Book

Perhaps one of the biggest downsides of technology in general, and social media, in particular, is that it is just so easy to waste a lot of time! It is simple to open an app and spend much more time than you intended just scrolling, and then realize that you aren’t even interested in what you are seeing! Imagine if you spend 5 minutes a day wasting time on your phone or computer. What if you used those 5 minutes to read, instead? There are a lot of books that take around 2 hours to read, so at that rate, you’d be able to read 15 books a year, just using that previously wasted 5 minutes a day. (And if we’re honest, we probably have more wasted time than that, which we could redirect!)

There is something to be said for the actual feeling of holding a book in your hand. A real booklover will tell you that it makes a difference to be able to smell the paper, to read the actual ink, to get away from the strain on your eyes of looking at a screen all day (studies show that it will actually help you sleep better!). But even if you decide to go the route of reading on your phone or another device, or listening to an audiobook, there are still a lot of benefits when you are reading a book, rather than just reading social media posts.

  1. Mental Stimulation, Memory Improvement, and Thinking Skills

Staying mentally stimulated is particularly important to keep your brain strong – a good defense against Alzheimer’s and dementia. “Use it or lose it!”

When you read a story, you have to remember characters, backgrounds, history, and nuances. It’s a lot for a brain to handle, but yours is quite capable! An interesting fact about our brains is this: when we make a memory of something (that is, we remember it), it creates new synapses (like a path or a bridge in your brain) and strengthens other already existing synapses. Strengthening your brain in one area will actually strengthen your thinking skills in other areas as well. (This is actually a great reason for doing something like algebra or even rote memorization of the presidents when you are in school! No, you might not use those particular facts and equations in “real life,” but just learning it strengthens your brain in a way that other subjects can’t. Students who are made to do those rote subjects have better thinking skills than the students who are allowed to skip them.)

2. Improved Focus and Concentration

One thing people complain about is that the generation growing up now just can’t concentrate and focus. In fact, we have been primed by television to have a changing scene every 2 or 3 seconds with everything spelled out for us. Distractions become increasingly louder and more colorful. There’s a reason we say we are going to “veg out” when we watch television. You don’t have to put your brain in gear!

Just like you have to remember things as you read a book, you also have to focus on what you are reading. If you skip over an important thought, you could be very confused at the end of the story. Reading a book is good practice for holding things in our short-term memory, which goes back to strengthening our brain! Our minds get to paint the picture for us, and new details that come up in the story just add to the complexity as we go.

 3. Knowledge, Vocabulary Expansion, and Better Writing Skills

Everything you read, whether it seems important at the time or not, is filling your head with random bits of information. Interestingly enough, in our internet age, we start to rely on our internet search engines a little too much. A search can only produce linear results, and show you things that are directly connected to other things. A well-developed mind can make a jump and connect two completely random thoughts together. This is what is required for good inventions, breakthrough ideas, and even just a powerful illustration. Computers can replace a lot of occupations, but this is one area that they’ll never be able to do like a well-used human brain (maybe just the way that God intended!).

Being articulate is a help in any profession or stage of life. The more words you read, the more you will know and use in your day-to-day speech. When you read a lot of different authors and styles, you will fine-tune your own writing style and be more aware of how words flow together. Even if you don’t use writing in your work, or you are a stay-at-home mom, having the skill to write a good letter seems to be more and more of a lost art these days. You don’t even have to think about expanding your vocabulary or writing skills while you are reading – just spending the time reading books will do that work for you automatically!

4. Stress Reduction and Life Perspective

Sometimes we get caught up in the drama of our own lives, and “losing ourselves” in a good story (fiction or nonfiction) helps us to keep things in perspective. It’s a little harder to be depressed and think your life is so awful, when you read biographies about some of our Baptist forefathers and the persecutions that they went through. It’s a little easier to be thankful for the country that we live in and the relationships that we enjoy when we read of others who had a much harder life than we do, and yet they still succeeded! It’s inspiring for me to want to be the best Christian that I can be, to be the best wife and mother that I can be, when I read stories of other women and the challenges they overcame.

Obviously, reading a good book will never be a substitute for real life (or, I should also add, a substitute for reading the Bible!). When you put the book down, your problems will still be there for you to face. But if you have a hard time turning your brain “off” from stressing about life, and worrying about your problems, reading a book and focusing on something else can be a great stress reliever.

I don’t think that any of this information will be new to you, but maybe it will spur you on to spend a little more time reading and a little less time scrolling this new year. If you’ve read a good book recently, I’d love to hear about it!