Mindful Reading

How many times have you come across a book that you know you have read but can’t for the life of you think what happened in it? Or perhaps got so distracted when reading that you missed great chunks of the story out? 

If this sounds like you then you have company in me. 

As a child I devoured books. I loved trips to the local library with my mum, and can still remember the smells of the books, the rows of brown, varnished shelves containing hundreds of titles as I looked up and read well-thumbed copies of favourites by Enid Blyton, Francine Pascal and Judy Blume over and over again. 

As an adult I still love to read and enjoy nothing more on a rainy afternoon than curling up with a book and a brew, but over the years I have become an impatient and distracted reader. Reading has become a race to the final sentence with my interruptive competitors WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram grappling to knock me off first place.

“The consequences of living such a busy life, with so many responsibilities and choices, is that our bodies and minds are constantly working overtime” (Puddicombe, 2015).

Over the years I have looked at so many more books. And by “looked at” I mean that I look at the words but my distraction takes me away from absorbing the stories and building the characters in my mind. When Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince was published I was so desperate to get to the end I actually missed out the part when Professor Dumbledore died. It wasn’t until I started on the next book that I realised that Albus was now part of the story posthumously. 

Reading should be a mindful experience. The smell of the paper, the feel of the book in your hands and the way the stories make your imagination dance should keep you present in the moments that you spend with the words. But for me, books have sadly become a tally on my Goodreads account, fighting for space amongst memes, funny animals and pictures of peoples food. 

However, last week I tried to remedy that. I set some time aside each day at bedtime to read. Actually read. No TV, no phone, no iPad. I put no pressure on myself and I took my time. I read less than half a book in five days but I enjoyed, and reflected on the words. I made notes and stuck them to the page on Post It’s. 

Taking time out each day for just me has made me feel more relaxed and brighter, and as a result of being more mindful I actually spent 26% less time browsing social media last week than the week before. My partner has noticed that I am sleeping better, and have been waking up looking more refreshed (and undoubtably less irritable).

By making such a small change I feel that I have made a big improvement to my wellbeing. The challenge now will be keeping it up.

We love to hear from you. What changes have you made to your lives that have impacted you positively?

Puddicombe, A. (2015). The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness. London: Hodder & Stoughton, p.37.

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