Thursday, June 11, 2020

3 ways to increase your reading during difficult times

3 ways to increase your reading during difficult times
I've heard from many friends and acquaintances that the global pandemic, and now social and police injustice sparking protests and riots across the country as more and more black lives are lost or brutalized by the police, plus our government seemingly preparing to attack its own citizens, has caused them to feel lost, confused, unfocused, and generally unable to engage with their usual interests and habits. 

And, I'm right there with all of you.

For the past couple of months, I've really struggled to keep reading and engaging in my other interests and hobbies, and the further I got from those things, the worse I felt about myself and life in general. 

Yet, I've been struggling with how to re-engage with my hobbies and interests.

I've spent hours and hours scrolling on my phone, watching television without really paying attention, picking up and setting down books and hobbies, and just not enjoying anything. I am already predisposed to depression and I felt like I was slipping pretty quickly into a massive depressive episode. Without making some concious changes, I knew it was going to just get worse and worse. 

So, I decided to be proactive and set up some rules around my needs, interests, and the way I was living life in order to create new habits or re-ignite old ones. I'm still struggling on some days and sometimes during moments of pretty good days, but I feel like the changes I've made have helped me to not sink too far down, and I've reinvigorated my reading habit. 

While they aren't perfect and life isn't happy rainbows and unicorns every day, these three tips have helped me to ramp up my reading again -- I hope they'll help you too.

1. Read first thing in the morning
Like making your bed, going for a run, or any other good habit, if you read first thing in the morning, you'll be able to tick it off your list of accomplishments for the day. And, if you love reading as much as I do, it will start your day on a positive note. 

I've been finding that if I start my day with 20 minutes of reading -- my personal minimum amount of time -- then I usually come back to reading later in the day.

2. Have a designated reading spot
I don't just read anywhere in my home. Instead, I consciously cultivated a corner as my reading nook. Is it special and fancy with grand bookcases and luscious furnishings? Nope. Not at all. But, it is comfortable with a stack of books at the side of my reading chair and ottoman, a few blankets, and a table for a cup of coffee or glass of water, and it has great natural light during the day with a lamp for darker days or the evening. I don't do much else sitting there. That spot is reserved just for reading. And, because it's cozy, I love to sit there, so I read a lot by cultivating a special, comfortable reading experience. 
3. Read something easy or familiar
My TBR (to be read) pile is quite large with some pretty heavy reading material -- I like complex topics, but also what my mom once called "depressing" genres. Right now, I just can't handle that type of material when the world feels darker, heavier, and more depressing than at any other time in my life. 

I've given myself a break and instead picked up lighter and easier books. I've been reading some chick lit, young adult, and humor. I've also been reading some very short books and children's books, as well as re-reading books I love and am already overly familiar with. 

A friend and I planned to read Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and to have a virtual dinner date to discuss the book, but I found it so heavy and sad (it's about the effects of slavery through several generations and from Africa to the US) that I had to put it down. By following the three habits above, I've managed to go back to the book in small chunks, interspersed with some of my favorite chick lit novels. And, I'm glad because Homegoing is superbly written and incredibly timely.

It's ok to put in some focused work at renewing your reading habit. It's ok to set up a comfy spot that you use just for reading. It's ok to read books that you normally wouldn't pick up simply because the genre or reading level is easy. 

If you're looking for your next read, I'd love for you to check out my reading lists on -- not only can you puruse books, but you can purchase too. Each purchase through helps support independent book sellers across the United States.
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