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I’ve always loved a good book over binging on a Netflix show for countless hours. I read to escape the drab week to week life and I aim to read at least one interesting book per week. I recently came across a magazine article about the various benefits of reading, and since then reading has become more of a conscious habit for me. The number of books I read now is way more than I used to a few years back. During the lockdown period I managed to finish about more than fifty books, self-help and non-fiction included and my stress levels were under control. My mind felt like it was restored to sheer goodness, to help me achieve better and keep calm while I got through the week. There’d be days where nothing would make sense and a good read would set me right back on track with renewed energy. Research by Dr. David Lewis shows that reading as little as six minutes a day can reduce stress levels by 60% by reducing your heart rate, easing muscle tension and altering your state of mind. That study also showed that reading was better at reducing stress than music, drinking a cup of tea, going for a walk and playing video games.

Few ways that show how reading as a mindful habit can stimulate your mental growth:

1. Improved quality of sleep:

Reading a book before your sleep time in place of scrolling through your social media is highly beneficial for sound sleeping. It’s instrumental to making you feel fulfilled and induce calmness before you call it a day. Scrolling your IG feed right before sleep can induce stress laden thoughts and feeling of anxiety.


2. Greater sense of human connection:

Reading about different characters and different situations gives you an objective angle on your own life. You are able to instill in yourself the ability to empathise  and feel compassion for yourself and the people you come in contact with. You develop the power of objective observance which helps you deal with life’s challenges far better than a non reader. Reading books makes you a much better human.


3. Helps deal with feelings of loneliness and anxiety:

A book is a great companion and an equally good companion. It’s the perfect kind of deliverance from the humdrum everyday life. It takes your mind off your own problems and you travel to a place where none of the problems exist. Loneliness becomes a temporary state of mind and you slowly come to terms with life.


4. Helps you slow down in life:

Reading books is a meditative experience. There’s sheer surrender when you dive deep into a book. It’s just like watching a movie but a long one. You watch (read) at your own pace. Also, every book you read will be interpreted, imagined and related to differently by different people. That’s the power of being present. If reading books is your first mindful activity you’re in for a treat, what will follow is a series of more mindful activities that come in tandem.


5. Strengthens the mind and memory:

Study shows that readers have better memory than non readers. They can process information better, faster and more efficiently than non readers. It results in more efficiency and better concentration power at whatever tasks you undertake.

If you aren’t already a reader, here are a few ways you can inculcate the mindful habit of reading in your daily routine:

1. Start small and slow:

A lot of non readers get dizzy in the head when they see the size of a book. One of the first things non readers ask is – how many pages is it?. But trust me, and I speak from experience, it’s not about how long the read is but how fun it is. Some books might take long and some just flow smoothly and you don’t even realize how quickly you’ve reached the end. A lot of readers stop reading if the story gets uninteresting or they don’t follow the plot. It’s alright to read just a few paragraphs and sometimes not at all. You can always revisit when you feel like it. The idea of reading is to read even if it’s only a few lines everyday, it’s not about making it to the finish line fast.


2. Read with no real purpose: Many read for the pure joy of consuming stories and perspectives, many read to learn but when you read with no real purpose you’re being open to the unknown. Don’t judge a book by its cover or the journey by its road. Just go for it unprepared and be surprised. The worst that can happen is that you’ll end up disliking a book, you let go and then you pick another one.


3. Read for the joy of reading:

Consume books for how they make you feel – before, during and after. I feel all kinds of happy when certain characters flourish or I feel sad when a favourite character dies in the plot. No matter what emotion surfaces, the major emotion is the joy of having read a new, unique story each time. I feel overwhelmed with gaining new perspective to life and overjoyed for no rhyme or reason. It’s simply inexplicable.


4. Make a ritual of it:

Regular readers boast of having a reading corner in their homes. They also frequent their neighborhood café and have a nook to read where they feel most comfy. Turn your room into a reading haven – scented candles, throw pillows, a wine glass (I like myself some vino while reading!), plants et al! Reading is even more of a gleeful experience when done right!


5. Share and receive:

Join a library in your area instead of buying and hoarding books. If you like buying your own books, turn your bookshelf into a mini-library and let your friends borrow books in exchange for an exciting read for yourself. Joining a book club also helps you socialise with people who share the same joy as you for reading.


6. Don’t stress over unfinished books

Do not stress over books that you can’t finish. Leave them unfinished, pick them when you feel drawn to them. It took about a year for me to finish a book one time. Don’t go on a guilt trip for not finishing a book. You can revisit it at a more opportune time. Any way when you will pick it up next you’re going to be a different person in a different headspace.

We hope you’re able to incorporate reading as a means to support your mental health and self care and not just a way to kill time. A book a day keeps the stress and anxiety at bay!

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