You were once what you’d call an avid reader, until you realised you haven’t picked up a book for months.
Exam-related stress, lack of time due to academic reading, illness, a relationship, the loss of a friend, a newfound obsession with checking a particular social medium every five minutes – all of these are but a few ways through which your reading habits can change.
The reading struggle is real. The fact that we are leading busier and perhaps more distracted lives, is even more real. It might be because we are living in a time where we are placing a special emphasis on electronic media, which tends to make people less inclined to do fact-checking and more likely to fall back on their hunches (more on this interesting topic in this article on the New Yorker).
In fact, according to a survey led by the Department of Labor’s American Time Use, the time spent reading has declined for both men and women. If you feel like your love for reading is failing you, or that the joy of reading is slipping through your fingers, or even that you simply can’t get yourself to understand what the words in front of you mean because something else is on your mind, then these five tips can help you can get your reading mojo and habit back, voluntarily.
1. Read stuff you actually like
Let’s say you’re doing a degree in Philosophy.
Instead of just going for Plato, Kant, Nietzsche or any of your famous philosophers, you can branch out a little and go for that article about contemporary moral issues, or that Victorian novel you’ve always longed to read.
The idea is to work towards expanding your niche and open yourself up to new possibilities.
2. Marie-Kondo your way through your personal library
Okay, so this is about making reading a fun hobby again, without actually getting any reading done.
I mean, other than watching movies or shows based on books, which I wouldn’t advise because that’ll ruin the fun of feeling things and interpreting them in your own, unique way.
Why don’t you go through your personal library, sort out the books in a way that’ll help you find your favourites even faster, and single out those favourites? You can also use that opportunity to look up some different works by the same authors on the books you already own, or follow them on social media, so you keep up to date with their work as well.
3. Read slowly; take frequent breaks
It’s like starting to practise for a marathon; you cannot just go from zero to hero; you have to do things gradually.
A reading-intensive session is a much harder objective to reach than, say, half an hour of bedtime reading, or any other short but defined period of time that you’re most comfortable with.
Unlike a marathon, however, there’s no one who’s really running after you to finish, so it’s okay if it takes you longer to finish a book. Relax into it rather than speed-read it.
4. Make a challenge out of it
Do you like a good challenge? Are you a fan of to-do lists? And crossing things off of them?
Well, then you might just find that making a challenge out of your reading habit makes the whole thing more fun. What kind of challenge, you say?
There are communities of readers on Instagram and TikTok to get you started, but you can go for websites like Goodreads to track the progress of books your friends are reading, too.
5. Express yourself; don’t judge yourself
Something worth talking about is the competitive element that is present at every educational institution.
Don’t get back into reading because someone else has, or because you’ve had to sit for an exam in English that requires reading most of the classics.
Do it for yourself, at the pace that feels good to you, and read anything that sounds good to you. So if you want to go for the rom-com with the shiny fuchsia cover, so be it.
Don’t feel guilty when you do something for your own pleasure; it’ll pay off in your future personal and professional life. And if you do manage to get back to your reading, you’ll find that you’ll more keenly participate in discussions about practically any topic, whether online on a forum or in-person.
When you really need a go-to subject as the conversation falls silent, you will look forward to enduring the journey back home from school on a bus, because you’ll have time to catch up on that latest novel, your creativity will flourish academically.
You’ll also find that thanks to those handful of characters you will manage to identify with in the material you’re reading, will make you more empathic.
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