Remember the feeling of curling up in a corner with a nice book, getting lost amidst the words and losing track of time? Most people now feel like they have been gobbled up by the screens in front of them, rendered unable to ever complete a book without being distracted by constant notifications and a short attention span.
Now that most of us are spending more time indoors and the days are starting to blend into an amorphous chunk of existence, there is no better time than now to get back into the habit.
We spoke to Sadaf Vidha, a therapist and researcher from Mumbai, to help us understand why reading, especially for leisure, can sometimes be more challenging. Smartphones and being continually surrounded by people and noises make reading a difficult task, Vidha said. “Reading makes use of the prefrontal cortex and if you are in a cognitively heavy job, this part of the brain is already taxed due to your workday, and may not cooperate when you want to read for pleasure,” she told Re:Set. Vidha shared some tips to guide those who are looking to rediscover the joy of reading.
“Read what excites you the most, and don’t have any expectations on when to finish,” Vidha suggested, adding that you can start with anything from trashy fiction to manga or even children’s books. Often it is our idea of what we “should read” and how fast that interferes with forming the habit, she observed. “Spend one minute looking at the book every day and if you feel like it, [read] a paragraph, a page or as much as you feel like.”
Find out the meaning of reading for you and center that when you pick up a book, remarked Vidha. “Indulge in it like a delicious treat, and then the pressure of ‘reading fast’ or ‘reading smart’ will not be there and you can, therefore, enjoy reading.”
If you are someone who has never had a strong relationship with books before or are looking to delve deeper into them, Vidha recommends joining virtual or in-person book clubs. Reading reviews and summaries can also help reignite excitement for the stories and knowledge that one may discover on their journey. Learning more about the history, context, author and other elements around the book can also help pique interest.
“Trying other ways to consume literature can help,” noted Vidha. Reading hard copies of books or using audiobooks instead of spending more time in front of screens can be useful if you need a break. You can also try reading aloud for oneself, for friends or do a reading over a Zoom call where you can all partake together.
Especially if you’re someone who reads a lot for work, when you’re settling in to read for pleasure, try other relaxation methods like having hot cocoa and using aromatic candles alongside to help you associate the activity with relaxation and pleasure.