Why You Should “Waste Time” Reading

by Ashleigh Tor

As a teenager I remember being applauded for spending my free time reading. Rarely would I get in trouble for not doing my chores if I was reading a book instead. I would plow through at least 3 novels a month while being a full-time student athlete. Recently, I stopped to question, why do I not read as much? Do I not enjoy it like I used to?

The answer? Pressures of being an adult.

American society values action and looks at any form of in-action as “laziness.” Apparently as I grew up, I internalized these views, and it caused me to view reading not as a valuable way to spend time but as a waste of my free time. How could I justify spending an hour reading after work when I felt I should be cleaning the house, doing laundry, cooking, exercising or anything else adulthood asked me to. Therefore, reading became a hobby I pushed to the back of my list, not to be done until everything else was completed.

What I failed to remember, and now realize, is just how valuable reading is. Aside from being a form of entertainment, reading is a form of constant education. Regardless of what genre it is there is always something that can be taken away and applied to our real lives. Reading gives us a chance to travel to other realities and learn important lessons that we might not get a chance to in our everyday lives. We can be physically limited to who we interact with or where we can travel to, but our brains are free to explore. Today, I use reading as a way to understand perspectives that are different form my own, experience new communication practices, dive into other cultures and ultimately learn how to be a more empathetic human.

Aside from education, I also realized reading can be viewed as a form of mental exercise. When we read, we are engaging and exercising our brains. The words on the page are the weights used and the muscle gains are creativity, vocabulary, memory, concentration, and critical thinking skills…just to name a few. Just as a physical workout can release dopamine and make us feel happier, so too can reading a book. Even if the book has me crying, I end up feeling better from releasing my own (often unnoticed) built-up emotions. Today, I not only use reading as a form of education, but as a form of stress relief. In a society where mental health is becoming more important and less stigmatized, reading should be viewed as one of the highest forms of self-care.

I no longer let myself feel bad for spending my free time with my nose in a book, and you should not either. The chores will always be there with nothing to offer us in return.

This is your sign to pick up the book you have been waiting to read. Go ahead, waste your time.


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