Reading is one of life’s greatest pleasures. It’s cheap, accessible, and offers the ability to travel to places beyond what’s possible in this dimension. The only thing about reading is that unless you’re a natural bookworm, you can miss out from the plentiful benefits of reading due to a lack of motivation. Fear not, we’ll show you the best ways to get yourself reading.
Know the Importance of Reading
Perhaps a few statistics will get you interested in starting up your reading habit. Occasional reading will give you hours of entertainment, but building an everyday reading habit will give you these benefits.
Of course, one of the best reasons to read is to expand your knowledge base. Whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, short stories, or poetry, you can always learn about the psychology of the characters, the setting and plot in which it takes in, the human condition, the subject of the book, writing, the English language, or simply gain an appreciation of words.
When you engage with a text, you’re learning how to not only be a better writer but a better thinker and observer as well. Reading is the best way to shortcut taking classes at school and learning straight from the expert sources on how to write, how to start up a business, be a master baker, and a variety of other professions. If you want it, there’s a book out there for it.
Cultivate an affinity for autodidactism. When you have a love of knowledge for knowledge’s sake, you’ll be naturally reaching for the next book like a kid reaches for a second or third cookie. Reading won’t become something to check off your to-do list but a treat in itself.
Reduce Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Reading, especially reading fiction, where your mind is absorbed in the world, and other stimulating texts may be what’s needed to stave off mental diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
However, it doesn’t take reading a few books a year. You have to be an active reader to gain lifelong benefits from reading. From childhood to old age, your brain has to be active and engaged to gain the psychological benefits from reading. If you start your habit know, it won’t even feel like you’re doing a chore to protect your brain’s health.
Where does your brain go when it’s reading? When you lose yourself in a book, you no longer think about the worries you have in real life, only the troubles that may be happening in the plot of the book.
Your ability to lose yourself in a book is the number one reason why reading is a great stress reducer. Your body is relaxed and in a neutral state when you read, and so you allow your mind to rest rather than ruminating on the struggles you’ll have to get back to once you put the book down.
However, not all books may elicit stress-reducing responses. To ensure optimal stress reduction from reading, follow these tips:
- Choose a book you enjoy. If a book doesn’t pull you in and make you forget you’re reading it, you’ll have to exert mental effort to try and finish it. Even if all your friends recommended it to you, even if it’s on the New York Time’s Best Seller List, put the book down and pick a different one. You shouldn’t be stressed about trying to finish a book you don’t like.
- Opt for a non-controversial topic. Perhaps you’re a natural contrarian, and you want to find books that challenge your existing opinions. While you might have that desire to expand your knowledge, it won’t reduce stress.
Finding books that stimulate thought might produce more stress since you’re thinking about ways to counteract and argue the points presented to you. Some topics might also be particularly infuriating to you, such as learning about a political scandal or the nefarious actions of corporations.
Pick easy reads that won’t stir up too many negative emotions in you. Beach reads and books you find in an airport would be an excellent place to start.
Writers are smart and most likely either do a lot of research for their book or read a lot on their own. As a result, writers tend to use big words to make their writing more succinct and easy to read.
When you pick up a book from a masterful writer, you pick up a few of these big words too. Reading them in context is one of the best ways to learn it’s meaning without having to pick up a dictionary every time you see a new word. If you can interpret a word’s meaning from the context in which it’s used and see the word multiple times, you’ll remember it and be able to use it properly.
When you learn a new word, you tend to start seeing it everywhere. This is called the Baader-Meinhof effect. You actually saw that word everywhere before, but since your brain didn’t know that word’s definition, the word was essentially a stray visual mark or noise your brain didn’t bother to interpret.
But when you learn a word’s definition, you’re able to recognize it, and your brain feels emboldened to remember it. So learning new words allow you to see its usage everywhere and thus be able to recognize a broader vocabulary in the broader world you inhabit.
See? Learning new words isn’t just for vocab snobs and English teachers.
Be a Better Writer
If you want to be a writer, one of the most ubiquitous pieces of advice you’ll hear is to keep reading. Stephen King and Margaret Atwood, along with lesser known authors such as Chris Bradford and Rachel Rooney, all say that reading is the best way to become a writer, so there’s no way to get around this if you want to write stories or nonfiction.
Even if you don’t want to write professionally, learning to be a better writer will help you in your everyday life. When it comes to communicating to your boss or your friends, saying what you mean to say in an active, clear voice will allow you to express yourself fully and accurately.
Being a better communicator is an essential skill for relationships of all types, so reading might be the key to a happier life overall.
Improve Your Memory
It takes a lot of brain power to remember all those words. Not only that, but in fiction, you have to remember the names and physical traits of the characters, the setting, the plot points, and a bunch of other details from the text. Non-fiction is even more memory intensive if you want to remember the information you’re picking up from the text.
All these reasons are why reading drastically improves your memory if done consistently. Fostering a reading habit forces you to retain all the information you read previously, so you know how the story progresses. You can use that memory boost in other areas in your life, such as school or work, once you’ve put the book down.
Foster Your Focus
Your mind may wander when you read, but the act of reading improves your focus in addition to memory. If you read and your mind starts to wander, as long as you return to the text after every mental excursion, your brain will train itself to stop wandering as much.
Especially if you keep reading consistently and slowly expanding the amount of time in which you read, you can find yourself focusing on a text for hours on end. It’s that intense, deep focus that professor and motivational speaker Cal Newport says is one of the best ways to be a successful person in life. Focused work leads to auspicious career outcomes.
But if you’re naturally distractible, especially if you keep a smartphone in your pocket and consistently go on social media, your focus will want an outlet in which it can unfurl itself and remain unbroken for a long period. Reading is the best way to get in the habit of doing that and build that essential skill.
Be a Better Thinker
When you’re engaged with a text, you wonder how the pieces of information you’ve gathered fit in with one another. You examine whether plot points make sense and whether or not a character’s behavior would be realistic in the context of the book.
Such examples and more is why reading drastically improves your critical thinking skills. When you’re exercising your brain on the information presented to you in a text, you become able to do so in real life as well. You’ll question the rhetoric from your friends, politicians, media stars, etc. You won’t be a passive listener in life but an engaged, cognizant critic.
Studies show that reading fiction, especially literary fiction as opposed to romance, science fiction, etc., is one of the best ways to improve empathy among all age groups.
When you read, you embody the characters in the text. You become them in their emotional or physical journeys. From a second-hand perspective, you learn how people understand themselves and each other.
And if you come across traumatic experiences that you might not have encountered, such as war or physical violence, you learn what it’s like to be someone who has gone through such experiences.
Having more empathy allows you to be more kind to others and have less stress in your life as well. When you’re empathetic toward others, you often don’t get as angry with them because you can understand why they’re doing whatever it is that’s upsetting you. Empathy is like a superpower to dramatically improve your life, and it starts with reading.
While this is not an exhaustive list of the positive benefits of reading, you can see that it’s an extensive one. Reading is an amazing habit to foster, but many people have difficulty implementing a reading habit in their lives. This is why you need to learn one tip that will make building a reading habit much less daunting.
Start Ridiculously Small
We’re talking so small you would feel embarrassed to not accomplish that reading goal. This could be a paragraph of a book, the first page, or the first chapter. The starting point is subjective depending on your limitations and ability to focus, but be sure that you would feel some sense of guilt if you didn’t handle the minor reading assignment you gave yourself.
Let’s say your goal is to read one page a day every day for a week. Since reading a page would take a few minutes tops, you can easily fit that into your day, whether it’s brushing your teeth or waiting for a bus to come. When you add reading into your day, no matter how short of a time that reading may be, you make the act of reading itself more implemented in your life.
After you’ve mastered reading one page a day, you can increase the goal to two pages. After that, do four pages, then perhaps six or eight. Your rate of growth is up to you, but you’ll notice that you’re making a consistent effort to keep that reading habit in your life because it’s so easy to do.
This is because when you start ridiculously small, you don’t start from a place that drains your will power. If you said you had to read 20-30 pages a day, your brain hadn’t worked up to the point of being able to handle that many pages a day. You’ll have to force yourself to read that much, and it won’t come naturally to you.
With that, you’ll likely find excuses not to read or simply stop reading because it’s no longer pleasurable to you. It’s a chore. But starting small avoids that drained feeling you get after doing something that pushes your willpower and allows you to keep doing that task, even if it’s seemingly less progress than reading 20-30 pages a day.
The fact that you’re still reading is progress in itself. Sure you read 25 pages on Monday, but if you stopped reading after that, the impact doesn’t matter. Habits matter and are best implemented when you start small and work your way up.
What Are the Best Ways to Motivate Yourself to Read?
Now that we’ve covered why building a reading habit is important and the best way to start implementing that habit into your life, let’s start disseminating tips that can actually motivate you to read.
Start With Something Unexpected
Especially if you’re one to not read at all but want to start a reading habit, you might be intimated with the length of a full novel. You can start in other mediums of literature and slowly work your way up to a book.
For example, many graphic novels and comics have the same level of storytelling, character development, and worldbuilding that we love in novels. But since graphic novels and comics have a visual basis, it’s likely to attract someone who can’t focus a lot on lots of text at a time.
Short stories are other great places to start. Most short stories are under 20 pages and contain a whole narrative in a short amount of time. Finishing a short story can give you the feeling of accomplishment and pride that can spur you to keep reading other short stories. Due to their short nature, you can often tackle multiple short stories in one sitting but not have it feel like that.
You can also give audiobooks a try. If you have to commute to work every day or often want something to listen to when doing the dishes, audiobooks let you immerse yourself in a story while freeing up your hands to do other things. If you want to multitask but still absorb stories, audiobooks are an excellent way to do that. They’re becoming more accessible in places like Audible online, so you can always have an audiobook with you.
Try Mixing Mediums
Mainly, print or digital. There are numerous reports support paper books as the best medium to read in terms of retention, comprehension, and the ability to focus on the text. However, print books are expensive and aren’t always convenient to carry around.
However, Kindles and other e-readers are simply more practical, and buying digital books is often cheaper than buying the paper version. If you want to implement more reading while on-the-go, such as on the bus or between classes, it would be best to use a Kindle and store multiple books on your phone.
Just note that you can mix the mediums. You can have a paperback book at home in which you enjoy reading in the morning or before bed while keeping a Kindle in your backpack for when you’re out of the house. By having a book at you at all times, you’re inclined to put Facebook away and read a couple of pages instead.
Pick a Consistent Time to Read
When reading at the same time every day, soon enough, your brain will learn to anticipate that reading time. You might find your brain naturally quieting down in preparation to focus on a book, or that you’re thinking about the characters in the story.
A good time to read would be right before bed as a way to slow down your thoughts and relax your body. Another good time would be in the morning with a cup of tea or coffee. Rather than jumping into your text messages or emails, you can retain some of your early-morning focus to concentrate on a book.
Make a Snack or Favorite Drink
While you’re consuming a book, you can consume a nice drink or snack as well. Let’s say you love green tea. If you only allow yourself to drink green tea while you read, your brain will associate the pleasure of drinking green tea with reading, meaning you’ll like reading much more by association.
When you prepare your favorite food or drink to consume while you read, you can not only give your hands something to do while reading but train your brain to anticipate reading.
Use Libraries to Your Advantage
New books can cost upwards of $20. If you want to build a reading habit but don’t want to break the bank doing it, lending free books from your library will be an amazing gift.
You can not only check out multiple books at a time but if you find that a book isn’t right for you, you don’t have to lament the financial investment you made in that book. All you have to do is return it and find a different book that resonates with you.
Most towns will have their own library depending on their size. If you live in a college town where the institution has its own library, you might be able to still get access to lending privileges even if you aren’t enrolled in that institution.
If you don’t have access to a library, there are online options available to you. Open Library allows you to check out electronic versions of books and to read them directly on your computer. There’s no need to leave your house but still get access to a sizeable library of classics and highly informative works. Don’t let money or location stop you from reading.
Join a Book Club
Book Clubs often consist of a group of people agreeing to read a book over a certain period, like two weeks or a month, then reconvening to talk about the book. The chat may be located in a library or a book club member’s home.
Book Clubs are an excellent motivator to read because they force you to get through the book, so you have something to talk about in the book club. If you didn’t read and someone asks you what part of the book you liked the most, you might feel embarrassed at being unprepared. To avoid such social embarrassment, you’ll feel a slight pressure to read.
The pressure will be enough to get you reading a little bit every day or bingeing the book a few days before the book club to get it done. Whatever method you find yourself doing, it was your book club that held you accountable and got you reading, which is probably more than you would have had you not been in the book club at all.
Look at Prize-Winning Writers
If you’re looking for substantive works that make you feel like you’re smarter after reading them but don’t know where to look, take heed of prize-winning authors. We’re not talking about local literary awards but immensely prestigious awards like the Pulitzer, the Nobel Prize in Literature, or the Man Booker award.
Those books won those awards for a reason. Top notch literature has been critiqued by experts for their language used, writing style, themes, and overall narrative cohesion. If you want to challenge yourself with memorable, perhaps even life-changing reads, go for the gold and give prize-winning writers a try.
Keep Track of What You Read
When you finish a book, keep a list of the title, the author, the date you finished the book, and a quick blurb of what it was about. When you keep track of the books you finished, you can get a sense of the immense amount of knowledge you consumed by starting up your reading habit. You can look at the list in December and feel accomplished.
Such feelings of accomplishment can motivate you to keep reading in the next year. Improving your reading habit starts picking up a book every day, but seeing the progress over long periods allows you to see why the reading habit was worth it.
Get Rid of Distractions
When your brain is resistant to doing something, such as reading, it will look for any excuse not to do that task. So if you get a few pages into your daily reading goal and hear your phone go off, you may find yourself in an internet rabbit hole and neglecting pick up the book again.
When you set out to read, turn your phone completely off and book any other electronic devices away. For an added distraction-free zone, turn off your home’s WiFi or find a place to read in which you’re not connected to the internet. Without constant distraction around you, you can enjoy your reading in peace.
Reading Is One of the Best Things You Can Do
Don’t let the resistance to reading prevent you from picking up the numerous benefits to reading. Your brain will be resistant to habit change, especially with a mental-intensive task like reading.
However, find accountability partners and systems in which you feel pressured to keep reading. Start small and grow your habit. And, of course, find books that bring you joy rather than feeling like a chore. Reading has been the best form of entertainment for centuries, and you can get such satisfaction from the act as well.