Reading for just six minutes can be as beneficial to the brain as meditating for an hour.
It slows down the heartbeat,reduces anxiety and stress, and allows the imagination to rove. Reading fiction is a way of entering another person’s consciousness, feeling what they feel, and so choosing the right book to read to suit you at this precise moment, needs a little planning. You might want to read something purely for escapism, to jump into the world of a thriller or romance, forgetting the realities of the world around us. Or you might want to go back into a childhood favourite, allowing yourself to revisit your younger self, feeling that sense of cosiness you had when reading in bed as a child. Alternatively, some contemporary literary fiction would challenge you, and help you to empathise with people from different parts of the world, or places that you have never been in your mind before.
It can be difficult to concentrate on reading during a pandemic. Here are some suggestions to help you to focus on your reading, and get the most out of it that you can.
One great way to make more reading time in your life, is to create a reading nook in your home. Find a place that will always be a sanctuary to read in. This could be a hanging chair, a bay window with a bench to sit on behind some curtains, a treehouse in the garden, or a place half way up the stairs where you can create a cosy spot. If you can, have a little shelf near your reading nook where you can keep your favourite books, and leave room for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Place cushions in an inviting manner, leave a cuddly blanket there, and make it as irresistible as you can. Then, when you know you have 20 minutes or half an hour to spare, turn off your wifi, leave your phone in a drawer, and go and sit in your reading nook. Being there is a signal both to you, and to anyone else in your household, that you don’t want to be disturbed. You could even add a Do Not Disturb sign to your nook. If you have children, a partner, or people you look after, encourage them to create their own reading nooks too – that way, you can all disappear to your separate reading spaces for a period during the day, and have a mind-nourishing reading break.
Another great way to seize more reading time is to read aloud with a partner, friend or with your whole family. Get cosy on the sofa, find a book that you think you will all enjoy, and try reading a short story, or a novel that you might have read as a child and which everyone will find enjoyable – something like The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, or one of Frank Cottrell Boyce’s classics, like Millions. Then pass the book between each member of the group, reading a few pages at a time. If it’s just two of you, either together in person, or over a video platform, try a short story. It’s a great way to share reading, and to have something new to talk about too.
For more reading tips and ideas, see Ella’s book The Art of Mindful Reading: Embracing the Wisdom of Words and The Novel Cure: an A-Z of Literary Remedies co-written with Susan Elderkin.