Reading books is one of the best ways to unwind. At some point in our lives, we have all found refuge in the solitude and serenity that only a good book can afford. The written word was one of mankind’s first technologies, and since its inception thousands of years ago it has remained as useful and enjoyable as ever.
We all know that reading is good for us. But did you know that reading can also be a mindful, or meditative practice? Our experts know all about reading as a part of any sustainable meditation practice. By reading, we immersive our minds in a whole new world where the stress and business of daily life dissolve. In short, reading can be a gateway to the present.
Want to get started? There is no need to hit the ground running and start reading A-Z. Instead, start small. All it takes is 10 or 15 minutes before bed every night. Gradually, you can build on that habit. Changes in lifestyle take a long time to develop, and they require patience and perseverance to succeed.
Have you always wanted to start a daily reading habit, but have never been able to stick to a routine? Continue reading to find out what our experts have to say about the benefits of mindful reading, what to read, and how to finally commit to a routine.
Reading as Meditation
Before diving into your reading journey, it is important to first understand its value. Reading is about more than just learning something new or discovering new ideas and perspectives. It is also about breaking free. That is, breaking from the hassles and busyness of our modern lives.
When we read independently, we take a much-needed break from everything else that life throws at us. When we fixate on a word, a sentence, or a paragraph, we become engrossed in its message. Reading, therefore, can be a form of mindfulness meditation. It encourages us to breathe, to be alone, and to be completely disconnected from the outside world.
A Tip to Get the Most out of Reading
When reading, try to focus entirely on the page. Whenever your mind wanders from the page, gently take note of it. Then, softly guide your focus back where it belongs. Although this sounds tedious, reading books in this way is one of the best ways to train the mind to become more disciplined and self-aware. As you progress, your mind will start to wander less and less.
How to Make Reading a Habit
If you’re like us, you have probably tried to make a habit out of reading a few times before. But, inevitably, the pressures of our lives and jobs cause us to fall short on time. As a result, we lose the time and motivation to keep up the habit and fall back to our normal routines.
We hear stories like this all the time. It’s true, reading does take some time. But, remember that you do not have to over-commit. Simply reading for five minutes after you get in bed is a lot better than not reading at all. To help solidify the routine, we encourage picking a small increment of time (5, 10, or 15 minutes) and holding yourself to that for one week only.
After your first week, you will find that the habit is beginning to take form. Instead of forcing yourself back to the book, you will naturally find yourself drawn to it because of how joyful it can be to unwind in this way. This is how the love of reading is formed.
Once you feel like you can handle a bit more time, try setting a timer for an increased amount of reading time over the next week. If you find yourself struggling to read for that amount of time, lower it back to your usual increment. If you find yourself wanting even more time, then increase your time allotment the following week.
The key is to find something that works for you. For some of us, we can read for hours a day and enjoy every minute of it. For others, five minutes is plenty. The trick is to be honest with yourself, and simply find a routine that is enjoyable and sustainable.
The Value of a Paperback
Digital technologies have transformed just about every industry, and publishing is certainly one of them. Today, you can read entire books on Amazon Kindle, or even a basic PDF reader on your smartphone. While having a digital version of a book on hand 24/7 makes things more convenient, it can negate all the wonderful benefits of reading.
When we read a hardcover or paperback book, we give our minds and our eyes a much-deserved break from the constant glow of LED screens. This might not sound like much, but it goes a long way for our health. Exposure to artificial light offsets our body’s “internal clock” which causes us to stay up later than normal. This leaves us feeling tired and sluggish the next day.
We recommend ditching the Kindle, e-Reader, or smartphone when you read. Instead, take the old school route and use paper-bound books instead. Remember, one of the benefits of reading books is the heightened sense of mindfulness. When we use our electronic devices, we are exposed to many distractions and pop-ups that entice us to stray away from the page.
The Ultimate Mindful Reading List
Don’t know where to start? Here’s a quick list of some of our favorite books that promote mindfulness. And best of all, they make for easy, low-effort reads. We recommend hitting your local public library and checking out a few of these titles.
Published in 1922, this novel depicts a young Indian man who embarks on an epic journey of self-discovery. Throughout his travels, the protagonist explores the nature of reality and what it means to live a fulfilling life. By the story’s end, the reader walks away with a deeper understanding of human existence and how to escape suffering.
Nancy Colier’s “The Power of Off” is a great introduction to the topic of technology dependence. In our modern world, many of us are completely reliant on our digital devices. These technologies improve our lives in many ways, but they are cause new forms of emotional distress. Colier walks us through these stresses, and how we can counteract them.
Dr. Seppala is one of the world’s leading experts on the psychology of well-being and resilience. In “The Happiness Track” she describes how our current culture is obsessed with moving quickly to pursue material ends. This pursuit, she argues, comes at a cost to our emotional health. Seppala offers advice and insight for seeking out happiness instead of productivity.
This book is well-suited for Millennials who are looking to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Many twenty-somethings have always lived in a world where digital technology has existed as a part of daily life. Dr. Holly Rogers explains how this affects the well-being of young people, and how they can escape the tumult of a plugged-in world.
In this classic novel, Robert Pirsig takes a philosophical approach to describing a mindful life. The novel revolves around the cross-country travels of a father and son via motorcycle. Throughout their adventure, they engage in many insightful conversations about life, the human experience, being “in the moment”, and many personal values.
How to Break Through Book Slumps
If you studied literature in high school, chances are at some point you have had to force yourself through a book. While many of us have had to do this, it is not a good method for sticking to a routine. Instead, slogging through a book causes the reader to resent the reading process. This makes it less likely that the reader will stick to the habit.
Whenever you find yourself struggling through a read, simply put the book down and grab another. You should never feel compelled or forced to read something that you do not enjoy. Unless you are entertained by the reading experience, you will never be able to make a long-term habit out of it.
If you get stuck on what to read next, go check out your local library. If you are interested in science fiction, browse the sci-fi section. If you are more of a history buff, then there are plenty of historical books that might appeal to you more. Public libraries are a great source of literature for those in need of a fresh new read. And like the best things in life, they are completely free.