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Tips to Help You Read More Books, Now It’s Proven to Benefit Your Mental Health

Tips to Help You Read More Books, Now It's Proven to Benefit Your Mental Health

I remember being seven years old and devouring Roald Dahl’s BFG — it was the first book which sparked not only a love for reading, but for words. There is nothing better than getting lost in a story and I would often stay up way past my bedtime just to squeeze in one more chapter of my newest adventure. I like to think Matilda Wormwood and I would have been great friends. But when I went to university, I hardly had time to read the required textbooks, let alone indulge in my favourite pastime. Nightclubs and bars replaced my evenings at home curled up reading a good book and I tended to reach for the remote or my phone instead of a book, if I needed to turn my brain off and let myself fall into a zombie-like trance in front of a screen. I would often try to re-engage my reading love on holiday, but then found it would fade as quick as my tan. When I did find the energy to pick up a book again, I couldn’t concentrate and had to force myself to re-read paragraph after paragraph because nothing would stick. When I couldn’t even make it through a full page without getting distracted, I knew I had a problem.

Reading a book for just five minutes a day improves your mental wellbeing by 20 per cent

According to the latest research by the Queen’s Room Reading, reading a book for just five minutes a day improves your mental wellbeing by 20 per cent. It was reported by The Independent, at a recent event at Clarence House Queen Camilla candidly told the audience: “Just as we always suspected, books are good for us – and now science is proving us right.” She continued to suggest that just as 10,000 steps and our five-a-day are all guidelines for making us feel our best, that reading should be included in that. But trying to get out of a reading slump isn’t easy. Last year I challenged myself to get back to reading and was successful in doing so. Read on for some of my tips below.

Read the First Chapter

If you haven’t read through an entire book in a while, start small and build yourself up. I decided I wouldn’t challenge myself with anything too deep and reached for a booktok favourite (Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, if you must know) and made it my goal to read the first chapter. As simple as it might sound, getting through the first chapter of a book without setting it down to check my phone was a major struggle. It took nearly twice as long as I’d expected, but with each new chapter that I read, my focus became clearer and I became more and more invested in the plot. Before I knew it, I was halfway through the book and my new goal was to reach the end.

Schedule 20 Minute Windows For Reading

Given that I was no longer accustomed to staring at words on a page for more than a minute at a time, I knew I would have to immerse myself in the world of reading in a way that trained my brain to refocus. To do this, I set time goals for myself. For 15 then 20 then 30 (and so on) minutes at a time, I would sit down with a book and no screens to distract me. I also used music for reading on youtube if I really needed to focus. While I didn’t have a page number to reach within the time I’d designated for myself, I found that having the structure of a time window for reading meant I was more focussed, and my attention span quickly began to increase.

Read on the Go

Everywhere I went I would stick a book in my bag. Whether it was for the school pick or the commute to work I ensured I always had a book to read. I would stuff my phone into my pocket and pull out my latest novel, forcing myself to read through (and take in) as many pages as I could before I was needed again. It took a little bit of getting used to, but after a week I was set in a routine that had me feeling like a kid with a Judy Blume book in her hands all over again.

Join a Book Club

Following the start of my reading-related journey, I searched for a local book club. After struggling to find one, I teamed up with a friend, who was also searching on Instagram for a local book club, and we decided to launch our own. We are now nearly a year into our book club journey and we look forward every month to an evening filled with conversations about the books, bringing them to life and encouraging me to think more deeply about the words on the page. We have read a variety of book genres from romance to thrillers, autobiographies to historical fiction. Having a community of people around me who also love to read motivates me to dig up a new bookmark and delve into another world.

It’s been over a year and a half since I started out on my quest to rediscover my love for reading, and I’m proud to say that I’ve made my way through dozens of new books. While I still don’t have the time to devour story after story in a single day, reading for pleasure has become a regular part of my adult life in a way that my younger self would be happy to see.

At the end of a long day, I can curl up with a good book and feel more fulfilled than I would while taking in my latest Netflix obsession. I can order books without feeling guilty about letting them sit on a shelf for years on end before I get to them, and I can look forward to cracking open the spine of a hardback and letting myself be teleported to another universe over the weekend. A quick peek into my home will show stacks of books piled in the corners of almost every room, and I plan to make my way through all of them one page at a time.

Lauren Ezekiel is an associate editor at POPSUGAR UK, where she writes about all things beauty and wellness. With a degree in journalism and 12 years’ experience as a beauty editor at a leading Sunday supplement, she is obsessed with skincare, hair and makeup, and is often found offering advice to innocent bystanders. Her work has been published in Grazia, OK, Health and Beauty, The Sun, ASDA, Dare and Metro.