These days with social media, the internet, and the sheer number of shows and movies available for streaming, reading as a hobby has been put on the back burner for a large number of people–if it’s even on their stove at all. Many people say they stopped reading books after middle or high school. Unfortunately, these school years typically aren’t known for sparking a passion for literature. While they do teach the literary canon classics, those books are often not the ones that interest young students. Reading can be a much more enjoyable activity when it’s not forced or when it’s exciting content. Nevertheless, there are several mental benefits to reading books regularly.

You’ll learn more

Reading expands your vocabulary. Simply put, the more words you are exposed to, the bigger a vocabulary you’ll develop. Knowing and using more uncommon words in your life is an easy way to intellectually distinguish yourself from the rest of the population. You’ll stand out on applications or in interviews as someone who has a higher education, even if you don’t. It’s also handy if you decide to be a writer–you’ll have a variety of words to choose from to avoid sounding repetitive.

Your brain stays active

When you read, you’re engaging your mind by processing the written words and following the plot of the story. The consistent intellectual stimulation that comes from regular reading prevents cognitive decline in older minds. A study from the online journal, published in 2013, followed 294 elders until death, upon which they were examined by neuropathologists. By identifying and measuring various things in the brain such as tangle density and neocortical Lewy bodies, it was found that those who had most frequently engaged in cognitive exercises like reading experienced mental decline at a 32% lower rate than others of the same age who had average or below average mental activity levels. This could be a possible link to reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Consistent reading still positively affects brain ability even for younger people. Starting to read at a young age and continuing throughout your lifetime may contribute to an even lesser chance of mental decline in old age.

You’ll be less stressed

You’ve probably gotten lost in at least one good book in your life. Was it hard to tear yourself away from the page? Did you find yourself surprised at the time when you stopped? A good book can captivate you for hours, making it a great way to pass the time, especially when you’re in need of an escape from reality. This makes it a great way to relax. Reading a book is the healthiest way to forget about your troubles. When you put the book down, you’ll be distracted by your eagerness to read what’s next.

Reading is an incredibly easy and fun way to improve your brain power. Regular reading habits will keep your mind sharp, even throughout old age. Pick up a book and become smarter today.