In a society full of social pressures, financial issues and personal conflicts, how can we positively develop ourselves? How can we hone our emotional intelligence, creativity, social skills, and our understanding of the world? These are the questions that a lot of people may be asking themselves. Probably, some of them have until now found various answers to these questions.
But, if it’s not right then you must be still looking for the answers. You must be definitely wanting to learn the ways that will help to develop yourself, master your empathy and intelligence, and increase your understanding of the world.
Here you go!
The most straightforward and simplest way of acquiring these skills is reading books. Though there are some other ways to acquire these skills as well, the most important one is your exposure to the world. And reading books does give us this exposure and we can learn a lot of things about the world.
But when it comes to reading books, there is a general assumption that nonfiction plays a better role in skill-development than fiction. It is also said that fiction is all about escapism and is just a waste of someone’s precious time. It takes us in an imaginary world that has nothing to do with the real world. Fiction can be a good time pass but it doesn’t help us to develop and understand the world.
Do you believe this?
By calling fiction as mere time-wasting stories or time pass, some people strike off its importance. There can be no denying the fact that nonfiction is a gateway to facts and knowledge. But, at the same time, we can’t underrate fiction. It has been of great importance since the dawn of humankind.
There are so many benefits of reading fiction that I can’t cover them in a single blog post. Still I’ll try my best to do so!
What are the Benefits of Reading Fiction?
Several researches conducted on the benefits of reading fiction, however, suggest that when people read literary fiction, they are able to develop social cognitive abilities, theory of mind, and critical thinking. In fact, reading fiction may provide far more important benefits than nonfiction. Though reading nonfiction might certainly be valuable for factual information, it does little to develop emotional intelligence, an ability only developed through reading fiction.
Reading fiction is a powerful way to understand others, enhance emotional and practical intelligence, and our understanding of the world. It is interesting that the imaginative worlds of stories provide us with so many opportunities for self-improvement.
Here are some amazing benefits of reading fiction that will surely surprise you.
1. Reading Fiction Helps to Improve Creativity and Judgement
There are a lot of health and psychological benefits of reading fiction. It is a sort of super drug or a wonderful activity that makes us creative and rational.
According to research conducted at the University of Toronto, readers of literary fiction are more creative thinkers and open-minded than nonfiction readers. Reading fiction helps them in decision-making and better judgement.
Another study published in Creativity Research Journal states that fiction readers have less need for cognitive closure as compared to nonfiction readers. The study further suggests that “reading fictional literature could lead to better procedures of processing information generally, including those of creativity.”
Thus, it is evident that reading fiction confers a wide range of benefits upon readers’ minds. With its structured narratives, it brings order to a disordered mind. It engages our mind, unlocks our creativity, and opens the doors of our mind to the unimagined worlds and things.
Fiction books have the power to make great impressions on us and change the way of our thinking. It gives our minds the freedom to think thoughts we might not have otherwise. By considering things from the way of the characters in the fiction book, we become broad-minded and less prone to snap judgements.
Another amazing thing about a good fiction book is that it gives us an opportunity to peer into others’ psyche and observe how they find solutions to their problems. In this way fiction provides us with a new lens to look at life through.
I really love this aspect of reading fiction!
2. Reading Fiction Enhances Our Imagination
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” ―Albert Einstein
One of the major benefits of reading fiction is that it broadens our imagination and thinking process. By taking us into another world, it opens our minds to new ideas and possibilities that definitely help us experience and analyze the world through others’ lives. This practice strengthens our mind and helps us in understanding new things. The imaginary worlds of literary fiction are actually the product of careful observation of the real world. By analyzing the problems of imaginary worlds of fiction, we become able to critically analyze our real world.
The research conducted on the “Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain,” suggests that engrossing in a novel enhances connectivity in the brain and improves brain function. It enables the readers to put themselves in another person’s shoes and flex their imagination. This is similar to the visualization of a muscle memory in physical activity such as dancing and sports.
A good fiction book sparks our imagination which lets us get transported into the imaginary world between the pages. The words on the pages begin to manipulate the picture of certain characters, places, and buildings in the mind. This practice highly strengthens our mind and also encourages creativity. It is imagination and creativity that make people able to come up with new ideas, theories, discoveries, and inventions that help advance society.
Thus, fiction plays a key role in both developing and engaging imagination and critical thinking. So, while providing temporary escape from the laborious aspects of daily life, it fuels our imagination and enables us to think better, see better, and do better.
Now go and grab some good fiction books to feed your imagination!
3. Reading Fiction Makes Us Empathic
“Empathy is about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place.” Daniel H. Pink
In a world full of self-interests, there is a dire need to increase the ability to have empathy. If we want to make the world a better place, we must teach people to empathize with each other. But how is this possible?
Scientists have figured out that one of the best ways to do that is by having people read fiction. Multiple studies have shown that fiction has the ability to encourage empathy. It makes people see things from others’ perspectives and enables them to understand and share in the feelings of others — even if they don’t know them.
According to Keith Oatley, a novelist and professor at the University of Toronto, literary fiction is essentially an exploration of the human experience. A study conducted by Oatley and his colleagues on how literary fiction influences a reader’s empathy showed that those who read fiction books have much higher levels of empathy as compared to nonfiction readers.
Another study conducted to analyze fiction’s influence in changing attitudes toward stigmatized groups showed that after reading Harry Potter, the participants became more empathetic toward refugees, immigrants, gays and lesbians.
So, people who read fiction have a better understanding of others. They can experience the world as another gender, ethnicity, culture, age or profession. They come to know what it’s like to be a slave, an oppressor, a poor, and swept up in a war or ostracized by society. Their ability to empathize with characters and their stories also fosters their social connection and enhances emotional intelligence.
4. If You Read Fiction, You’re not going to Kick the Bucket Soon
Do you want to book up for a longer life?
A study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine has proved that those who read fiction don’t die earlier. So, the more people read fiction, the more likely they are to live longer.
Reading fiction boosts our brain power and keeps the mind active, healthy and responsive. It helps to develop emotional intelligence which makes people successfully wrestle with mental problems and insecurities. Moreover, fiction provides a sense of escapism or transportation, allowing us to ignore our everyday troubles and struggles, and reduces stress levels and depression. All these factors promote good health.
Another study has proved that if we spend 30 minutes on reading, it helps to reduce blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of psychological distress. So, reading fiction works so well in relaxing our body and easing the tension in our muscles.
Thus, besides developing empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence, according to experts, reading fiction also lengthens our lifespan. It strengthens our connections with the world and contributes to a more engaged, happier, and therefore longer life.
5. Reading Fiction Improves Our Social Skills
Bookworms are generally portrayed in television programs and movies as socially backward.
But this is not the case—a study has shown that reading fiction may help to improve and maintain social skills and understanding.
Social skills play an important part in the development of human beings. People need them while communicating and interacting with each other. Those who are fond of reading fiction tend to have stronger social skills than nonfiction readers. Reading fiction improves focus and concentration which makes people better at conversations and conflict resolution. It also teaches us how to communicate effectively. All this is essential to social interactions.
Fiction provides us an endless supply of examples of social interaction from which to learn. We come across various scenes in fiction works that introduce us with effective ways to handle conflict in a variety of situations. Reading fiction also allows us to experience a range of moods and emotions that we don’t experience in our daily routine. When we see the characters experiencing these emotions, we begin thinking about how we might react in a similar situation. This prepares us for healthy future interactions. Research also suggests that people who read fiction are more likely to be volunteers or charitable.
6. Enhances our Understanding of the World
Reading fiction also helps us to understand the overwhelmingly complicated real world. There are so many books and novels that teach us how to live in the world. They also tell us what is going on in the world and which type of problems and issues the individuals are facing in the world. For instance, Chinua Achebe’s 1987 novel Anthills of the Savannah gives us an insight of the deterioration of socio-political order in post-colonial Nigeria. Mary Shelly’s classic novel Frankenstein opens our eyes to the deeply ambitious nature of human beings. We learn from the novel that an insane pursuit of knowledge can lead human beings to so much trouble.
In fact, every work of fiction gives us a deeper understanding of the world. We learn a lot about human nature from fictional characters.
Today, it has become a tradition to learn from fiction. In various schools, colleges, and universities, teachers use fictional sources, such as popular films, novels, and television shows, in their classroom to help their students learn about the world.
So, reading about fictional worlds is an especially good way to gain knowledge about the real world.
7. Regular Fiction Readers Sleep Better
Reading relaxes our brain significantly.
Studies have shown that those who read books sleep better. But it doesn’t mean to stay up all night reading just because you need to know what is going to happen next. This will lead to unwanted health issues. For instance, a recent data study conducted by HotDog reveals the elevated physical and mental health issues for insufficient sleepers that includes diabetes, obesity, coronary heart disease and depression.
Sleep advisors suggest that reading before bed can bring a variety of health benefits. If you read a good fiction book before bed, you can take your mind off of all day’s tensions and struggles. This reduces stress, and with reduced stress comes better and sufficient sleep.
8. Reading Fiction Improves Memory
Reading is the best workout for our brain. It improves memory and slows down the rate of mental deterioration at old age. When we read, we think and our intelligence is called to action. This gives us understanding and insight about the things. All this mental activity helps in keeping our memory sharp.
Another research has suggested that reading books keeps memory and thinking skills intact. It helps in preserving brain health and warding off symptoms of Alzheimer’s in old age.
Thus, the more you read, the more you can help protect your memory.
9. Fiction Helps in Vocabulary Development
We all need vocabulary to convey our ideas and express ourselves. An enhanced vocabulary, therefore, increases our capacity for social interaction. People who have good vocabulary and articulate themselves clearly can easily develop friendships or networking. Among all the ways to improve vocabulary, reading fiction is the best one. When we read books, we are exposed to new words and can discern their meaning through the context of what we are reading. It remarkably expands our vocabulary.
Research has proved that students, who begin reading books at a young age and become regular readers, develop large vocabularies. Their enhanced vocabulary helps them in several areas of life — from getting high test scores to college admissions and good jobs.
Fiction reading increases vocabulary more than non-fiction. This is because fiction tends to use a greater variety of words than non-fiction does, says website testyourvocab.com that analyzed millions of people by taking vocabulary tests.
So, the more we read fiction, the more vocabulary we are likely to assimilate.
10. Reading Fiction Makes Your Time Valuable
Reading fiction is a valuable use of time for all of us. It increases our productivity, comprehension, literal thinking, and problem-solving skills. By forcing ourselves into the shoes of another and by transporting ourselves into another world, we develop your capacity for imagination, creativity, and emotional intelligence. Above all, reading fiction makes us happy, satisfied, and feel good with our life.
I hope all these benefits of reading fiction will surely help in changing the notion that fiction is merely an entertainment and wastage of time. I must say that it is the best use of time and makes humans to be lifelong learners. People who read fiction continue expanding their minds, perspectives, and ideas which lead them to a happy and fulfilled life.
Luckily, to get all these benefits, all you have to do is pick up good fiction books.
Happy fiction reading, folks!
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It’s really cool how reading helps you develop social skills even from just reading them. Learning effective communication is definitely something I’ve observed too, now that I think about it. I hope to pass down my love of books to my daughter who’s turning into a teenager soon. I’ll give her some easy-to-read books for now and then move on to more complicated stuff from my favorite genre, detective books. In addition to having a good time, I’m sure the skills she develops from them will help her later on in life.
Thanks for explaining how regularly reading fiction can help you unwind and distract your brain from your problems. I heard that my friend is looking for a new hobby outside work. I’ll be sure to pitch this idea to him when we meet again.