With Netflix’s ever-expanding library, it can be difficult to carve out the time to sit and read. Still, it’s an important habit to develop and one that, in many ways, is easier now than ever before. This article will discuss how you can cultivate a reading habit. First, let’s address why you might consider it.
There are countless perks to a reading habit but here are four that are worth highlighting:
First and foremost, reading is an enjoyable and immersive experience – or at least it can be with the right book. If you’re struggling to get into one, don’t be afraid to move on to another.
Reading often provides us with a glimpse into a different world, through different eyes. In turn, it can often give rise to new thoughts and creative ideas of our own.
There’s a boundless array of knowledge and experience out there. Through books we’re able to dive into this sea of information, exploring new and potentially life-changing ideas along the way.
Reading requires a strong focus and – as difficult as that may be in the 21st century – the more we practice, the better we get.
In his book, ‘The Power of Habit’, Charles Duhigg details the three-step loop in which our habits unfold, namely with a cue, a routine and a reward.
Essentially, a trigger (either external or internal) then sparks an automatic behaviour (either physical, mental or emotional) which is later reinforced by what our brain perceives as a benefit.
For example, when on public transport, a lot of us listen to music to pass the time. In this case, the cue is being on the train or bus or whatever, the routine is listening to music and the reward is having some sort of stimulation during the journey.
Later in the book, Duhigg notes that habits are far easier to change than they are to extinguish. He explains how by simply swapping the routine in a ‘habit loop’, we’re able to implement new behaviours. With this being the case, perhaps the best way to develop a reading habit, is to ‘swap’ the act of reading with something we’re already doing.
By taking Duhigg’s advice, you could choose to read a book on the train, rather than, say, listen to music. Both the cue and the reward would remain the same, but the routine would be different.
This brings us to the next point; designing your environment in a way that’ll make the act of reading a more likely choice.
If you’re trying to stop smoking, you probably won’t want to keep a cigarette behind your ear. In a similar vein, if you’re looking to read more, it’s important to create an environment conducive to that goal.
This may mean keeping a few books on your bedside table, carrying one in your bag as you commute – essentially just having books at the ready.
Most of us are guilty of lying in bed using our phones/laptops until the early hours of the morning. Again, following Duhigg’s logic, we could replace this time with reading. Not only will we get through more books in this way, it should also help us fall asleep quicker.
With the many ways in which books can now be enjoyed, ‘designing your environment’ might simply mean putting Audible on your phone’s dock, i.e. somewhere you’re likely to see it. Initially, it might just be buying a book. Through Amazon and other online retailers, buying second hand books is both a quick and affordable process.
Ultimately what you choose to read is going to come down to your individual preferences. However, if you haven’t done much reading in the past – and really, even if you have – it’s worth keeping an open-mind and reading from a variety of genres and sources.
To paraphrase the Greek philosopher Epictetus, if you want to do something, make a habit of it. If you’ve decided that you’d like to read more… read more. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean a book a week. It could just mean reading the entirety of an online article, rather than skipping to the TLDR. In the end, just read what interests you as you don’t want it to feel like a chore.
Don’t limit yourself to fiction – there’s a lot of great biographies and non-fiction books out there and they can improve your life. We have access to decades worth of research and personal experience that, with a team of editors, has been condensed into easily digestible content for us to learn from and enjoy. It’s pretty incredible. Not to mention, with the recent surge in audiobooks, you can now listen on-the-go (e.g. when walking the dog or cooking)
For reading to become a regular practice, it must become an act that you truly value. This is because values tend to dictate our behaviour. With this being the case, it’s important to understand your motivations for reading – especially if it’s a habit you’re trying to build.
These will likely boil down to a variety of different personal factors. That said, it becomes a lot easier to do something when you know why you’re doing it – ultimately, it’s on you to decide.
As with anything else, it will likely take time to build up a regular reading habit. The hard part for most “good” habits is being able to sustain them to the point where they are no longer a burden but actually enjoyable. At any rate, with the right set of books, that point may be closer than you think.