How Binge-Reading Benefits Your Brain

Next time you’re feeling the need to binge on something, try binge-reading. It’s good for your brain, plus we could all use a little more literary escape from our plugged in lives.

Get ready for a depressing statistic—24 percent of American adults haven’t read a single book within the last year! Even worse, that stat includes those who listened to audiobooks. In contrast, the majority of Americans are well acquainted with Netflix binges—and it’s not helping our brains.

Even though television and reading are both forms of storytelling, they affect our brains VERY differently. We’re not talking about the hormone imbalancing effects of that glowing blue screen, although that is another issue.

Our brains process video and literary stories in very different ways. And one is clearly much worse than the other. Let’s break it down.

Man watching tv series on streaming with digital tablet

How Binge-Watching Affects Your Brain

According to a Netflix survey, 61 percent of users will regularly watch two to six episodes of a show in one sitting. Yikes. That’s a lot of video content.

The thing is, it’s tough to not binge on video content. Streaming services like Netflix allow areas of the brain to completely deactivate and passively allow the sensory overstimulation to flow in. In fact, regular binge-watching actually causes parts of your brain to atrophy. Research out of the UK suggests that watching 3.5+ hours of television a day causes a decline in your brain’s language and memory functions in the long term.

Sure, 3.5 hours sounds like a lot, but you might be surprised. If you actually track your hours—between news in the morning, video distractions during the day and entertainment at night—your watching hours can quickly add up.

Binge-watching, as you probably already know, is addictive. “The neuronal pathways that cause heroin and sex addictions are the same as an addiction to binge watching,” according to clinical psychologist Dr. Renee Carr, Psy.D. “Your body does not discriminate against pleasure. It can become addicted to any activity or substance that consistently produces dopamine.”

Sorry, but binge-watching shows simply isn’t good for your brain. 

Young woman is reading book

How Binge-Reading Affects Your Brain

In the opposite corner, we have reading. And yes, people do binge-read. Need an example? Think about all of the people who downed the newest installment in the Harry Potter series within 24 to 48 hours of its release. It was reading MADNESS!

Binge-reading is an entirely different beast from binge-watching. Binge-reading has no autoplay, no enticing graphics, no vast corporate conspiracy to keep your pages turning. Unlike video streaming, which is a passive activity for the brain, binge-reading is deeply stimulating. Reading requires imagination and mental energy. It flexes our brains and forces them to make connections that we wouldn’t otherwise be confronted with.

Reading strengthens language skills, selective and sustained attention, cognition and imagination. Plus, even though reading is a hermit-style activity, reading novels that explore unique personal relationships can also help to build social skills.

Whats your favorite book to binge-read? Share with the Care2 community below!   

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77 comments

Jeanette Björk

I'm ALWAYS reading at least one book, it becomes a lifestyle

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Leopold M
Leopold M4 days ago

Tyfs

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Leopold M
Leopold M4 days ago

Tyfs

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Frances G
Past Member 5 days ago

TYFS

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Caitlin L
Caitlin L6 days ago

Thank you for sharing

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Peter B
Peter B7 days ago

Thank you

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Gabriel C
Gabriel C10 days ago

TYFS

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Mike R
Mike R11 days ago

Thanks

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Ganaisha Calvin
Ganaisha Calvin11 days ago

shutting my brain down with tv is so tempting but is nothing compared to a good book

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Teresa W
Teresa W12 days ago

I read in several languages, not just one.

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