Reading used to be my favorite pastime and I still identify myself as a person who likes to read, but I’ve noticed I don’t actually read much anymore. Sure, I read a few news articles and online blogs daily, but I barely make it through one or two novels each year when I used to devour a book almost every week. Somehow reading for fun has become a chore in my life, one more thing on my “to-do” list and the one that I skip if I have too many other things to do. There are even studies out there that discuss the decline of reading in America.
The reasons we don’t read anymore:
• Active vs. Passive–
Reading is an active pursuit. While watching TV is a passive hobby. Reading stimulates imagination and requires you to be engaged, but when watching TV or pursuing other passive interests you can “tune out”. In this way, we perceive that we are more relaxed while watching TV and the thought of picking up a book feels like work.
• Social media–
In a world rapidly flooded with more and more social media sites our attention span has been reduced to a tweet. This has created a need for instant gratification, an “I want to know what happens now” focus. Rather than finding pleasure in the slow build of a good plot, we feel frustration and anxiety.
In a world of juggling responsibilities of home and work and never-ending to-do lists that don’t include luxuries for ourselves such as reading. It can be hard to make reading a priority when there’s too much else that needs attention.
Reading is a solo activity. Even if you just spent the past hour churning through all your social media newsfeeds by yourself, time spent online is time spent connected to other people. Time spent online, even away from social media, promotes a feeling that we are with other people even when we are alone. By contrast, shutting off our devices and sitting quietly with a book causes us to feel removed and even anxious about what we might be missing.
Benefits of reading:
The benefits of reading are in opposition to many of the reasons people don’t read as much as they used to. Reading actually helps us relax by allowing us to disengage from the outside world. Reading quiets your mind, which can reduce anxiety. If you are reading a book in print rather than on an electronic reading device, it may actually help you sleep because you aren’t subjecting your eyes to the screen that is keeping you awake. Reading stimulates the imagination which can lead to more productivity and creativity in other parts of your life.
Making reading a habit:
Start by trying 10-15 minutes each day and don’t commit yourself to more than that. Don’t focus on how long a book has been on your nightstand, just give yourself credit for reading a few pages each night. If it helps to feel you’ve completed a task try short stories or a poetry collection. Just reading a single poem and ruminating on that one idea can give you all the benefits of reading. You can find the joy in reading again and add to your overall health and well-being.
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