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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Exploring Expectations #2

Following on from my Exploring Expectations #1 this is the second post in the Exploring Expectations Series.

New Years is a bit of a time for giving your slate a bit of  clean and having the opportunity to start afresh.

Your slate could be something as simple as cleaning out the fridge, getting rid of the last bits of Christmas food and re stocking it with healthy food and making a meal plan, to planning a trip of a lifetime. But, no matter how large or small your slate, it is a good idea to think of what expectations you have in relation to your choices.

What do you expect from removing the chocolate from your fridge and replacing it with superfoods? Are you expecting a body like Beyonce after a month and is this attainable or would a gentle transition into eating a healthier diet long term be more within your attainable expectations. Think about how you will feel if you aren’t Crazy in Love with your body after a month against how you might feel after a few months of gently introducing healthier options in to your diet and under which situation you are most likely to have your expectations met.

I found myself thinking over Christmas that come January I would sign up to give up alcohol for a month, practice yoga every day and try out Veganuary. I would write a blog post at least every two weeks and begin to read all the books I have in the cupboard and sort out my finances. I would go visit my family at least once a week and make more dates with friends to see them out socially.

I then wrote it all done realised that I also had to fit in work, school runs, swimming clubs and Scouts. Without military planning I was probably setting myself up for a huge set of expectations unmet. So I went back to the drawing board.

I have my whole life been one for taking on projects that seemed like a great idea at the beginning only find I didn’t have the time to complete them, or get stressed out with the pressure and then give them up. This has often led to me feeling like I have failed and it is a born out of placing to0 high expectations on myself but not having the tools to deal with the unmet expectations.

So, this January I am going to monitor my alcohol intake, I have put the Dry January app on my phone and each night before bed I honestly note whether I have had a drink or not. I had a gin and tonic last night whilst I watched the TV, do I feel like I have failed? No. I feel like I had a gin and tonic whilst I watched TV.

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I have decided to integrate some vegan foods into the weekly family diet, foods that I know will get eaten. This gives me both the chance to experiment and enjoy a new way of eating but also not have a lot of waste and arguments at the tea table.

I am absolutely going to read the books I already own and not purchase anymore and I really made the most of the last 30 minutes of 2017 by browsing and purchasing books on Amazon before the New Year rung in!

And finally, family and friends. By far the most important thing and the resolution I am going to do my utmost to keep.

What are your thoughts on resolutions? Let me know.

Have a great week everyone.

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