5 science-backed reasons why readers do better in their careers

The Muse
Jesse Wisnewski
Customers browse books at the newly opened Amazon Books store on November 4, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. The online retailer opened its first brick-and-mortar book store on November 3, 2015.
Getty Images

I'm not someone who's ever gushed about my lifelong love of books. The first book I remember reading was when I was 20 years old.

However, from working as a retail store manager and in a call center, to working as a content manager and now a senior marketing manager for one of the world's largest publishing companies, reading has been the single activity that has helped me progress professionally.

During my professional career, I stumbled upon the many benefits reading provides, and today, I believe it's one of the best, most affordable and flexible ways you can improve yourself professionally.

More from The Muse:
The best way to read a book in 90 minutes (and still learn something)
Here's the simple secret to absorbing everything you have to read at work
Here's the secret to finding time in your busy schedule to read—for fun!

But you don't have to take my word for it. Here are five science-backed reasons why picking up a book (or maybe more realistically, turning on your Kindle) will improve your career:

Why Marcus Lemonis doesn't read business books
Why Marcus Lemonis doesn't read business books

1. It reduces stress

In your professional life, you have to learn how to manage your stress level successfully, so you don't walk around like a pressure cooker about to explode on your boss, your peers or your employees.

Enter: books.

Recent research found that reading only six minutes per day can "reduce [your] stress level by more than two-thirds."

In fact, as a stress reducer, reading outperforms listening to music, drinking a cup of tea,and taking a walk.

So, the next time you feel stressed, instead of reaching for dessert, a glass of wine, or screaming into a pillow, reach for a book instead.

2. It helps you sleep

You're not at your best when you're a zombie, but falling asleep can be easier said than done.

Research shows that reading is one of the best ways you can prepare to go to bed — and you'll get a better night sleep than if you watched TV during the same time.

3. It improves your decision-making skills

On average, adults make 35,000 decisions each day. And naturally, you want them to be good ones.

When Elon Musk had an existential crisis at age 14, he read this book
When Elon Musk had an existential crisis at age 14, he read this book

I don't have to tell you how important it is to avoid making ill-informed, impulsive or snap judgments. But did you know that reading will help you to steer clear of this trap?

Research conducted by a trio of University of Toronto scholars discovered that reading fictional literature "could lead to better procedures for processing information generally, including those of creativity." Essentially, fiction readers developed less of a need for "cognitive closure," or in simpler terms, were more comfortable with ambiguity.

Translation: Reading fiction will help you to improve your decision-making ability by reducing your need for making quick — and perhaps irrational — judgments, because you'll be more open to ambiguous situations.

4. It makes you a better leader

Readers are often stereotyped as people who avoid face-to-face contact for the benefit of immersing themselves in a book.

But, this couldn't be further from the truth.

When it comes to better connecting with people, one study found that individuals who read for only 30 minutes a week reported a stronger sense of empathy.

The ability to relate to other people — to place yourself in their shoes — is a skill that readers have in common with the best leaders.

5. It makes you smarter

Your brain is like a muscle, and you need to exercise it to keep it healthy. Sure, there's Sudoku and crossword puzzles, but reading is a great way to stay mentally fit.

Lessons to learn from Elon Musk's appreciation of Benjamin Franklin's biography
Lessons to learn from Elon Musk's appreciation of Benjamin Franklin's biography

Think about it this way: In general, if you do not lift weights, you will not get stronger. Over time, your muscles will become weaker. If you train with weights, you will be able to improve your strength. The same holds true for your brain. The more you exercise your brain, the better it will perform.

So, reading will not only help you to learn new things, it will improve your overall intelligence, too.

At this point, hopefully I've convinced you to pick up (or download, or borrow) a book. And while reading anything's a start, one way to add value quickly is to look for a book that will help you build skills relevant to your career as well. Here are some good options:

Of course, I also recommend reading for fun, too. Really, anything you pick up will improve your vocabulary.

Above all, keep in mind that while podcasts and courses are certainly valuable, you don't want to make the mistake of thinking books no longer matter.

Once you start reading again, I promise you'll see a difference.

Like this story? Like CNBC Make It on Facebook.

Don't Miss: CEO says every entrepreneur should read this 259-year-old book on wealth

This article originally appeared on The Muse.

These three books helped shape the career of the CEO of Converse
These three books helped shape the career of the CEO of Converse