Reading books benefits both our mental and physical health. Furthermore, these benefits can last a lifetime. Reading strengthens the brain, particularly its connectivity in the somatosensory cortex, which responds to physical sensations such as pain and movement. Making a habit of reading also increases our ability to empathize, improves our vocabulary, reduces stress, and can even help alleviate symptoms of depression. The National Institute of Aging recommends reading books as a way to keep the mind engaged as we get older, preventing age-related cognitive declines. With all these benefits, you’d think more people would be bookworms. So how can we become better readers?

Ever heard mention of a book that sounds enjoyable, but you forget the title or author? To be a better reader, first begin by keeping a reading list. You can handwrite one, however, it may be a better idea to keep the list on your cell-phone so that it’s always available in case you hear about a book while you’re not home. 

Sometimes we neglect reading because of a lack of time. Get in the habit of keeping reading material on hand. If it’s too inconvenient to carry an actual book then invest in a kindle, which you can keep dozens of novels on. Having something to read available will help you get in the habit of reading more often. Waiting for an appointment, riding public transportation, or sipping your morning coffee can all become opportunities for a little extra reading.

Another piece of advice that may not be offered often is to start skimming things more often. Yes, skimming is good, especially when reading magazines, the newspaper, or things on the internet. There are lots of reading materials that don’t need to be read carefully. The habit of skimming can be fun and won’t take away from the time spent actually sitting down and investing in a novel.

In order to be a better reader, it’s important to set aside time to read books that are more challenging or demanding. Some people call it “study reading” and it can be incredibly rewarding. If you’re someone who typically reads fiction, try reading a scientific or historical book once in a while. Things that challenge us may seem a bit daunting, however, one becomes a better reader by expanding the range of subjects that one reads. So next time you’re at the library, check out an old religious work or a heavy biography that you wouldn’t normally choose.

There are a ton of ways to become a better reader. Consider joining a book club so that you can join discussions on the books that you read. If you find yourself too busy to read as much as you’d like try audio-books. Listening to audiobooks is particularly pleasant when you’re working out or commuting.

Being an excellent reader can make work, school, and life in general much easier and even more enjoyable. By reading more we can not only improve our technical skills, such as accuracy, speed, and comprehension, but it can also leave you with mental and physical benefits that will improve the quality of your life.

Originally published on Michael Wolkind QC’s website.