Dive into a good book: Reading for a healthy mind

As you might have noticed on social media, the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg has made reading more books his new year's resolution. Whether you're thinking about reading a few chapters on the beach over the weekend or on your lunch break at work, there are many health benefits to tossing a book into your reusable bag.

Tablet vs traditional – paper or pageless

If you're an avid reader, or keen on taking several (hundred) books with you, you have the option to use a tablet device which is capable of internet surfing, movie watching, game playing and music listening. If you're after a more authentic experience, you can go for a classic e-reader, which purely stores your books for you to read.

Recent findings from the Vision Council show reading from a backlit screen such as those in tablets or other mobile devices for extended periods may cause your eyes to tire due to digital eye strain, although these types of displays have the added advantage of not requiring a reading light if you are concerned about keeping others up late.

However for bedtime readers some studies are suggesting that the blue light emitted by backlit LCD devices like tablets, phones or computers can impair proper melatonin function in the brain. As melatonin regulates sleep patterns, this could mean you take longer to get to sleep.

Thankfully, the solution is fairly simple if you're worried about getting your full eight hours: read a paperback (remember you don't always have to physically buy a new book each time, your local library may have what you are looking for).

Also available are e-readers which can emulate the effect of paper reading through e-Ink technology. These are easy to take outside for a spot of summer reading, as there is no glare from the screen and are typically less power hungry than their tablet counterparts.  

A recent study looking at the difference in eye strain between reading off paper, LCD and e-Ink screens only reported eye strain for those using an LCD screen, according to the University of Vincennes de Saint Denis in Paris. 

Benefits of being a book lover 

One of the upsides to reading a book is the potential for reading to actually reduce stress levels according to research from the University of Sussex. In his interview with the Telegraph Dr David Lewis reported that reading for just six minutes was linked to a 68 per cent stress reduction in the study's participants. Dr Lewis added that it didn't matter what you read, more that reading provided a form of escapism.

Research from Rush University also notes that reading, amongst other stimulating brain exercises can actually aid in preserving memory as we age. Over the course of the study, taking part in such activities was shown to slow the decline of memory by up to 32 per cent. Dr Robert S Wilson, who led the study, noted that we shouldn't underestimate the effects of hobbies like reading for people of all ages. 

Fiction readers can rejoice, as according to a study published in the Science Magazine, reading fiction could enhance the way we understand and read other's emotions as well as predict their reactions, known as Theory of Mind. 

Reading has also been linked to the delay of the possible onset of Alzheimer's disease, with activities to promote mental health such as reading, writing and doing puzzles recommended by the Alzheimer's Foundation for staying mentally active.

It seems easy for us to forget to read with all of the multimedia technology available to distract us. So whether you love flicking through fiction or getting lost in a biography, keep a book on your nightstand or pack one into your lightweight, eco-friendly Onya backpack and you may just boost your brain power.