In our world today of social media, Netflix, and faster internet speeds, we have become increasingly impatient. People want instant gratification, and books rarely deliver that. Reading takes brainpower; it takes patience, discipline, and effort. Compared to watching television or scrolling through Instagram, books seem almost a chore to get through.
News articles, TV episodes, and songs have all become shorter because we appreciate instantaneous entertainment over a building, complex storyline.
However, are we sacrificing something precious when we lose interest in books?
An article in the Atlantic listed some of the scientifically proven benefits of reading. They cited a study on Neurology, which found that dementia patients who read and wrote regularly had a slower decline in brain function. They also found, from a college study in Toronto, that reading increases one's capacity for uncertainty.
Stanford University conducted an experiment in which they had participants read a chapter of a Jane Austen novel. While they read, scientists tracked blood flow with fMRIs to see what short term effects reading had on the brain. They found that reading exercised some of the underworked parts of the brain.
Natalie Phillips, a researcher at Stanford University, found that there was an increase in blood flow when the participants read closely. She said that this suggests, "paying attention to literary texts requires the coordination of multiple complex cognitive functions." Such coordination is not required in "work and play".
Conclusively, it is scientifically supported that reading is a great exercise for the brain which offsets some effects of brain-related diseases and neurological deterioration.
In addition to the health benefits of reading, books can also be a great source of comfort and thrill, specifically fiction. Books have also been shown to make people more empathetic since books often allow us to enter into a different person's point of view. Books can also stretch our imagination and in turn, let us live a more creative and passion-fueled life. By reading, we are taught to see the world not only as it is, but also as it could've been, could be, or could become.
However, in today's world, as we previously discussed, technology and our fast-paced lifestyles have created more boundaries to books. However, there are some simple tricks to take up a healthy habit. As a writer, I am embarrassed to admit that I fell off of reading for a couple of years. Wth the mandatory book and essay assignments from school, and the ever-increasing availability of instant online entertainment, books were becoming harder to pick up voluntarily. However, here are some things I tried that helped me get back into reading.
Set your intention. What do you want to gain by reading? It could be just satisfying curiosity, or maybe there is a topic you want to learn more on. For me, I wanted to become a better writer and increase my attention span and focus. Once you learn why you're committing to something, it is harder to convince yourself to skip it.
Start small. While you might be tempted, like me, to start full force into new habits, try to set small, manageable, almost laughable goals for yourself. Make your goal so small that you would have no reason not to read. maybe you set your goal as reading one page a day or one minute of reading daily. it is not the greatness of what you achieve in one day but the consistency of small actions that allow us to greatly impact our lives.
Start with children's novels. In What The Dormouse Said, Amy Gash says "I'm convinced that children's authors are the neglected giants of literature." In her book, Gash shares simple but powerful quotes from children's books that are great lessons for adults as well. From her book, I loved the quotations from "Alice in Wonderland" so much that it ended up being my first read in a long while. If an adult book feels too daunting, or if the whimsical simplicity of kid's books appeals to you, give one of them a try.
Try audiobooks. With more and more commitments, our lives often feel too packed to add anything else. However, by listening to your books, you can get through a surprising amount of content simply by switching from listening to the radio to listening to a book. You can make more use of your time spent commuting, exercising, or other day-to-day tasks. However, make sure not to get distracted when listening to books while in the car, as it can be a distraction to driving.
Those are some of my tips to get back into reading. As Dr. Seuss says, "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go."