When 2014 began I made a New Year’s Resolution to start a habit and stick with it. After ending the previous year unhappy with the number of books I had read, I decided this new habit would be setting aside time every single day to read. It would be something of my choosing every time, so any school assignments or work materials wouldn’t count. In an effort not to completely overwhelm myself, I started with an easy 15 minutes a day. This ended up usually being in the morning during or after eating breakfast on normal days, and on busy days it was typically right before going to sleep. Rain or shine, busy or not, I made time for those 15 minutes. I always justified it by telling myself that in 15 minutes I couldn’t even watch an entire episode of a TV show. This made it seem so breezy and basically inexcusable to skip it.
After about a month or so of keeping this habit, I noticed that I began to look forward to this reading time every day. So I upped the time to 20 minutes, and eventually to 30. Still just the short amount of time it would take to watch an episode of TV—something I would easily fit in every day before starting this habit! But the reading seemed a more productive use of my time, and I seriously started to love it.
By including reading time into my daily routine, I began to feel less stressed out. It was a time every day where I could escape my daily stressors and anxious thoughts. Instead, I would be immersed in whatever I chose to read—and because I was choosing the material, I always picked something I knew I would like. Even knowing I had this time set aside for this totally stressless activity would calm me throughout the day. I had something to look forward to during a stressful shift at work, or a lovely morning breakfast with a book to start a new day after a particularly bad one the night before.
My 30 minutes of daily reading became—and still is—a time of solace and escape. The good kind of escape! Reading truly lowers your heart rate and eases tension in your body because it forces you to fully think about something else besides what’s stressing you out. This is also the reason it helps strengthen and increase your attention span because it’s basically impossible to think about multiple things at once while reading material you find interesting.
It’s a habit I’ve fully integrated into my daily routine and now won’t sacrifice. I love the days when I get up early enough to enjoy my book alongside my breakfast and coffee, and even the busy days when I get to unwind before bed with my reading.
So start with just that short 15 minutes a day! It doesn’t have to be a big deal, even just your favorite magazine or newspaper. Take that time to immerse yourself in the written word and have a break from your daily stressors