Creativity – communication – health
21 March 2018

You Are What You Read

Creativity – communication - health

In terms of reading I have chameleon tendencies. Here’s a good example. Yesterday I was found myself thinking about the tediosity of having to sort out all my papers for the end of my VAT quarter.

Coming up with a word like tediosity means I have been reading a bit too much Louise Rennison, creator of the gloriously loopy and very funny teenager Georgia Nicholson (star of e.g. Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging). The previous week I’d been immersed in Blandings Castle and my vocabulary took on a distinctly 1930s tinge for the duration. The week before that I was trying to read Justine, the first of Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandrian quartet. (It’s hard work, but an interesting style.)

Working in HR means I have to do quite a bit of heavy duty reading, but I still love reading for pleasure and relaxation. I could read at the age of four and growing up I ruined my eyes reading by torchlight after lights out. I just couldn’t bear to abandon my book for the night.

But it seems that being a book worm is healthful. Research suggests that people who read good quality, well-constructed material (“deep reading”) give their brain a workout in multiple complex cognitive functions.

The superficial reading associated with social media doesn’t involve much more than understanding and decoding words. Deep readers are fully engaged and enter the mind f the author. When you are deep reading, you absorb language rich in detail, allusion, and metaphor.

Reading literary fiction allows for better performance on tests of affective theory of mind, or understanding others’ thinking and wellbeing. It’s an exercise that promotes brain health, boosting levels of empathy because you practice reflection, analysis, and personal subtext.

Skim reading doesn’t achieve this. It fails to prompt the analysis that provokes deeper thoughts and the material is rapidly forgotten.
An article published in the Journal of Consciousness Studies reported that more emotionally charged writing works to arouse several regions in the brain that respond to music. When comparing reading poetry and prose, researchers found that poetry activates the posterior cingulate cortex and medial temporal lobes — both of which are linked to self-analysis.

If you are what you eat, equally you are what you read. The information that you absorb mentally informs your thinking patterns, and influences your output in the form of the decisions you make, the work you produce, and the interactions you have.

This all means that good quality reading is going to be good for business and we should be encouraging our teams and workers to read good quality material. Have a library at work which people can dip into. Start a book club. Get people using their brains in a different way. You’ll also find that when people read properly their writing style improves and so does their grammar and punctuation.

We all lead busy lives, and with so many other commitments, it’s understandable that many people say there isn’t always time in the day to read. But is that quite right? When you spend 20 minutes scrolling down your Facebook feed, you’re reading. When you choose to click on an enticing title from a questionable news source, you’re reading. When you browse without reason, you’re reading. It’s just that you’re skim reading and it won’ do you any good.
One of most important skills in life is how you think. To get a bit of brain exercise going, reduce your social media browsing and add in some literary fibre. Read classics and good fiction, and learn from people who think deeply. The quality of your mind depends on it.

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Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.

Copyright © 2022 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.