Yesterday I was ambling to the office thinking about the tediosity of having to sort out all my papers for the end of my VAT quarter. Errm - “tediosity”?! Good lord.
I realised I might 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 with a side vocabulary related to portly porkers ....... And 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.)
Research suggests that people who read good quality, well-constructed material (“deep reading”) engage their brain in multiple complex cognitive functions.
I have to do quite a bit of heavy duty reading for work, but I love reading for pleasure and relaxation and it seems my book wormery is giving my brain a good work-out at the same time.
The skim reading associated with social media doesn’t involve much more than understanding and decoding words. Deep reading involves reading that is slow, immersive, emotional and complex. When you are deep reading, you are absorbing language rich in detail, allusion, and metaphor. This style of reading works to engage the part of the brain regions that allow the reader to feel as though they are experiencing the event. Deep readers enter the mind of the author.
Reading literary fiction makes way 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 aimless browsing, pointless news, and social media feeds. Add some classics, read good fiction, and learn from people who think deeply. The quality of your mind depends on it.
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Copyright © 2018 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.
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