All throughout my life I never particularly liked reading.
I don’t know if it was the school’s heavy incentive on what books to read, or maybe it’s because my parents never read.
Whatever the reason, it just did not turn my crank.
I also witnessed that most people are like the donkey carrying a cargo of book.
Back then, I thought as “Look at these morons, the books they read gave nothing to them, so it’s not about reading books.”
I was right and wrong at the same time.
Yeah, some people can still stay as a moron regardless of how many books they read but does that make reading useless?
It’s like seeing stupid people in the gym and labeling working out as a stupid activity.
If you’re taken in by a logical fallacy, false conclusions might easily cause you to make decisions that you later regret.
I’m happy to say that my thoughts about reading have drastically changed. Life is full of surprises, I have never thought that I would write an article about reading.
But here we are, so let’s find out the key elements of building a healthy reading habit.
1) Learn the power of reading
It’s only possible to build the habit of reading after experiencing its significant positive impact on your life.
Every permanent change needs a solid base, so when you grasp the prominence of reading, your actions will follow it naturally. Most people don’t know what they miss when they don’t read, so it becomes easier to slack off on doing it.
- Knowledge is power
This statement is often overlooked because it sounds like a cliche. Ignorance is the most devastating phenomenon that can force people to live in darkness.
Knowledge is the ultimate way to save yourself from slavery. When you decide to read, the whole world opens up to you. If you are experiencing difficulty in any area of your life, it’s because of your lack of knowledge. If you knew the way, you would have solved your problem.
Billions of people lived and died before us, and some people wrote the solution somewhere in their book. So, what could be a better way than investing in a book?
- A book is like a time machine
You can go thousands of years back or to the future. It can tell the lives that you can never experience in your short life span. It allows you to imagine what it’s like to be somewhere else, doing something else, seeing it in a different way.
A reader lives a thousand lives, a person who doesn’t lives only one
-George R.R. Martin
You can know right from wrong with the help of books. A supersmart person squeezes a lifetime of knowledge into papers, and you can reach it for 7 dollars. You barely get a menu from fast-food chains for that amount.
Are we going to get 2000 calories in 10 minutes, or are we going to suck the knowledge of a highly influential person? We build who we are with these kinds of choices day by day.
- Your brain needs a workout
Reading is a great exercise for the brain. It keeps our minds sharp and clean. If our mind is a garden, our thoughts are the seeds and reading is how we nourish those seeds.
It’s common to see many people take care of their materials cautiously every single day. They devote a serious amount of time cleaning their cars, spend thousands of dollars on furniture, get crazy about shopping for their outlook. However, when it comes to feeding their mind, they see it as a burden.
Our mind is the most important asset of us. It’s the reason why we are out of the food chain. Our success in the human hierarchy depends upon how effectively we use our minds. Unlike speaking and listening, reading is not natural for us. Babies can easily learn how to speak when raised around humans, however, they would never learn reading even they had spent 1000 years in a library.
When the brain deals with the abstractness of letters, words, and sentences; it requires stronger and more complicated neural connections. That is why reading consistently makes you a sharp, intelligent, and all-around individual.
- Reading makes you healthier
Reading can relax your body by lowering your heart rate and easing the tension in your muscles. It’s an active meditation for self-actualization.
A 2009 study at the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68%. When your brain is engaged in reading, your heart rate slows down and muscles relax. It also works better and faster than other relaxation methods, such as listening to music or drinking a hot cup of tea.
It can even save you from chronic neurological diseases. Due to the increase in brain activity, reading has been proved to stave off the onset of Alzheimer’s and Dementia. The rate of decline in cognitive ability can be diminished by about 32% if the person was an active reader.
2- Get rid of all mental roadblocks
If you are not a consistent reader, then you must have negative thought patterns in your mind about reading.
These mental roadblocks are keeping you away from mental jewelry whether you realize or not. It’s our responsibility to dig deep into shrouded vaults of our mind and clean all the possible dirt.
Let’s just think, what would be your primary excuses not to read? List them down and see if they are rational or not. I will walk through on popular ones, you can do it for yourself in private for optimum results.
Excuse #1: “I can’t make money by reading books”
The list of the richest people in the world gets published every single year, and we are familiar with those names more than our relatives such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, Elon Musk, etc.
We know about which shares Warren Buffet owns, how Bill Gates found Microsoft, what kind of battles Mark Zuckerberg fought for Facebook but we all neglect the common denominator between them.
These people read more books than we can imagine by investing a serious amount of their time. They are all voracious readers.
Warren Buffet often repeats that he spends 80 percent of his day reading. The man is playing with billions, can you think of the monetary equivalent of this time?
What can books provide for him?
Bill Gates has two weeks of vacation every year solely for reading. 95% of people will never earn what Bill Gates earns in two weeks. Elon Musk basically built SpaceX from reading books.
Yes, you don’t directly earn money through reading books. The purpose of reading should not come from financial concerns. The book broadens our horizon, develops memory and intelligence, teaches analytical thinking and empathy.
Every quality book is another world. You explore new worlds when you read. Over time, your brain develops and an ocean of knowledge accumulates within you, and one day it overflows. You benefit in every possible way because you become capable of solving problems.
Even if nothing happens, reading is a meditation and it provides self-realization, but something definitely happens at the end.
Excuse #2: I don’t have time for reading
Is your time more valuable than all the great people mentioned above? Or maybe you’re just making excuses.
This “I don’t have time” is such a comforting excuse that’s used almost in everything. Why?
- It makes you a victim so you don’t feel responsible: We believe the circumstances do not allow us to read but we are the creator of those circumstances.
- It makes you feel valuable: People brag about their busyness because it feels like they are highly important individuals.
You can shield yourself with lies to feel better for a while, but this won’t save you in the long term. We never have time for anything, we make the time.
It’s all about prioritization.
If we believe that we don’t have time, then the activity is just not our priority. There is no need to fool ourselves.
Most people spend at least 4+ hours on trivial stuff in a day. Social media, binge-watching YouTube, aimlessly surfing on the web, TV, Netflix, playing video games, having long and meaningless chats with friends…
So there’s always time for doing things we should be doing.
Excuse #3: I just learn knowledge from other sources (movie, podcast,etc)
These sources are great learning material but they can’t be replacements for books. Why? Because a book is like a portrait as opposed to a photograph. The author conveys all the required knowledge in a most organized and effective way.
If you can really read, you can consume knowledge way too faster by reading. When you are a reader, you are the person who makes the world because books let you imagine the setting or events happening in the story.
Books are also more detailed because other sources can often leave out some important details.
Excuse #4: Reading is too boring
Our attention spans have been ruined mostly by the internet, social media, video game addictions.
What a pity, right?
We are programmed to seek pleasure in the short term in every activity. Reading a book delivers a very delayed dopamine system compared to everyday activities. When you watch something or play a video game you instantly get the dopamine reward in your brain. Large flashy colorful lights, instant rewards in the game, big flashy numbers, popping objects are the magical sources of instant gratification.
Today our brain is so used to this quick delivery system of dopamine. Reading a book definitely gives a healthier and more sustainable dopamine satisfaction, but it takes a longer time to get it. Neural adaptations can take weeks, sometimes even months.
This is the reason why you feel bored.
Reading will be joyful over time but you shouldn’t start reading for pleasure. At first, the words will seem like some boring black symbols but once you manage to visualize the words into images and understand the importance of what they want to tell you, then you will never feel bored again.
If you persist enough, it will make you think, open up new possibilities, change your thoughts, strengthen your figurative, and implicated thinking. It will strengthen your memory. Your focus and concentration ability increase.
Once you get the taste of it, you will be mad at yourself why you haven’t started it earlier.
Excuse #5: I forget everything after reading
“Once I told my master, “I read a book but remember nothing about it”.
He gave me an apple and told me to eat it.
Right after that, he asked me “Did you grow now?” and I said, “Of course, no”. “Yes, you did not but the ingredients of the fruit spread all over your body. It became flesh, bone, neuron, skin, a new cell”.
I understood that the books I read become part of me just like that.”
Our memories indeed suffered in the internet age because we reach everything fast and easy.
Most people treat books as a source of pleasure because they don’t look for an actual learning experience, they just want the momentary giggle. If your intention is not enlightenment, then you don’t internalize what’s written in the book.
However, that doesn’t mean you should understand every detail from a book. Like a salt dissolves in water, the book adds itself to our mixture of experiences.
3-Use 1-page trick
My dad quit smoking for 6 years, do you know how he started again? Or do you know how all smokers start smoking?
Yes, they all said once, “What the hell, let’s have one”. This is how we are mostly tricked into doing evil stuff. We always say “Who cares, what the heck can happen after one trial?”, then we find ourselves doing it again and again.
Here, I suggest you do the opposite. So let’s give the devil a taste of its own medicine. All you have to do is to convince yourself to read 1 page from a book every day.
It’s almost impossible to stop and read the second page once you start. You know the cliche, “starting is always the hardest part”.
The hardest part of doing a work out is actually going to the gym because once you arrive there, the rest is easy.
The hardest part of writing is absolutely the beginning where you convince yourself to write something. Once you’re not stuck in the beginning stage, the words come in rapid succession.
What’s the best method to trick our brain into doing anything? It’s setting up mini-goals. In the case of reading, you might be thrilled to finish a 500-page novel, but anybody can read 1 page.
4- Overcome instant gratification
Once somebody asked a fiction writer, “What is your edge among others? Can you mention one skill that makes you successful?”
I remember he said, “The ability to stare at a blank screen for a long time”.
If you are an artist, you produce something out of nothing. The escape is extremely tempting when there is nothing created yet. So if you know how to deal with the boredom, it’s a highly precious skill.
The actual problem of our era is that we have a lot of options. It’s crazy when you think there are billions of new content on the internet every day waiting for us to consume.
- We can watch series, movies, or videos on social media platforms.
- We’ve Tinder matches to arrange new dates.
- A lot of people waiting for our DMs on Instagram.
- Our WhatsApp never stays quiet, we hear a new notification sound every second.
- YouTube, Netflix, Facebook always keeps us updated with the news.
How the hell are we going to stop this madness and decide to feed ourselves? There has never been a time in history that you can easily invest in yourself.
Old generations never had this luxury of reaching information in such a comfortable way. They worked very hard to help us attain these privileges.
The only virtues we need right now are patience and focused effort.
It’s crazy how people can’t get their share in this great era. Stupid Youtube challenge videos have millions of views while people never bother to watch highly insightful and informative ones.
For example, my best articles strangely never took the attention of viewers. Can you guess what’s the most viewed article? It’s “How to Get A Body Like Cristiano Ronaldo“.
Popular culture conditioned people to focus on what they don’t need such as magazines, garbage news, meaningless trash-talking TV shows, sports, and entertainment. We are born in a world where self-indulgence is the main indoctrination. The education system already disorientated us to read with bullshit education materials.
Right now, we came down to a stage that people can’t even sit down and read.
Elephants are extremely smart animals.
- They never forget when you do something wrong
- They can easily identify body language
- They have the largest brain of any land animal and three times as many neurons as humans.
- They can use tools
- They mourn after the death
- They show empathy
Let me ask you, how these little chains can restrain these giants?
It’s because the owners put these chains on elephants when they were such a tiny baby.
As a natural response, all the elephants tried to escape with all their might but no matter how hard they tried, they experienced failure over and over again. Their legs hurt and bleed a lot, so the baby elephant suffered more in every new attempt.
This is called learned helplessness in psychology. Although the elephants can easily break the chain right now, they don’t even try it. They are enslaved by humans who give them rewards after their obeyed behavior.
Elephants can’t read but you can!
Reading is the ultimate way to break yourself from the chains of the past. Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.
5-Arrange your environment
You can get in the habit of reading faster by creating the ideal environment.
A quiet and soothing room is the best for reading. Let’s get this out of way first, your bed is for sleeping.
Reading requires an active state of mind. That is why it’s better to reserve your bed for sleep and dedicate a space in your home specifically for reading instead.
Other than that, the atmosphere must be provocative enough to encourage you to read.
- The books must be easily accessible from the bookshelf.
- The room must be stress-free as much as possible, so eliminate all distractions. Turn off your phone, close the door, ask other people to not bother you. Make sure there’s nothing between you and your lovely books.
- Set up a place where you can sit or slightly lie down in a comfortable position.
6-Read every morning
If you can manage what you do in the first hour after you wake up, the rest of the day is a piece of cake.
Do not surrender your whole being to the screens. Stay tough, and be resilient enough to have control over your actions. Once you achieved reading 15-20 minutes in the early morning, that will increase your appetite to read more.
Our mind is more receptive around the time when the sun starts rising. So if you read these hours, your reading sessions will be more effective.
Reading is definitely better for retention and comprehension compared to listening but that doesn’t mean that audiobooks are trash.
There’s time and place for audiobooks, too. Especially if you are occupied doing something else, it’s valuable to be able to utilize that space. When you fill the space with audiobooks, it’s like a found free time.
It’s possible to get a degree while driving, doing dishes, or taking a walk.
Plus, people learn differently. Maybe you are a better listener than a reader, who knows? Why not give it a try at least?
Other than that, audiobooks can be great at night just before sleep.
Reading an e-book around midnight definitely mess up our eyes because of blue lights, and opening the lights can lose our sleep easily. Therefore, bedtime is a great time for us to listen to an audiobook as we fall asleep.
8-Have a reading list
Just like any other plan, having a reading list can help you maximize the value, enjoyment, and satisfaction you get from your reading.
There’s already enough ambiguity in our life. That’s why we can fall into carelessness and easily slack off when we start a new enterprise.
I don’t think I would ever be consistent in my workouts if I did not stick to a plan at the start. When everything is clear, procrastination chance seriously diminishes.
Just as the sense of accomplishment after hitting PR in the gym, so our brain feels accomplished when we push through a list of books that we’ve been working through for a long time.
Other than that, once you’re done with a book, it minimizes the waiting time because you know what’s next. In this respect, having a reading list will definitely assist you in making reading a habit.
9-Read on digital devices
I know, I know, I know…
Nothing can replace the feel, ownership, and enjoyment of a physical book that you can hold in your hands while easily flick back and forward through the pages.
However, we’re living in the digital age. Let’s just face it.
E-books work like magic. I’ve read most of my books on my android phone when I used to travel between home and school or office. Later I found out that Elon Musk read books often on his iPhone just like I did.
I’m not surprised at all. It’s amazing to carry a library in your pocket. You can store thousands of e-books on a single device. That makes reading available anywhere and anytime you want.
“What about our eye health?”, you might ask.
Of course, paper books are easier on the eyes but it’s possible to adjust the brightness of the screen according to the time of the day and depending upon your preferences. eReader devices already come with these features but there are great applications (I use f.lux) for the phones and computers as well.
10-Pick a time and dedicate yourself
Why would you need a specific time dedicated to reading?
Let me ask you, why would anyone skip reading? Because it’s easier. The answer is clear, right?
We all have busy lives and we are often forgetful. If you don’t make the time, the chances are you’ll slack off and get beaten by resistance in the long run. Things might be different for bookworms because they’ve already built their habit in the past.
If you are a newbie, you should be more careful and mindful of your choices because the automatic response system of your subconscious will do its best to dissuade you from it.
It can be right before bed, first thing in the morning, or during your lunch break. Just open up some space in your busy schedule of scrolling social media, and mission-critical binge-watching sessions where you save the world in 5 minutes.
If you want to build a habit, this is the best way.
“Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man.”
Just like our body needs water and food, our mind needs reading as nourishment.
Do you want to go to the past? Do you want to go to the future? Are you bored with your current situation? Do you need a loyal friend? Or maybe all you need is a little relaxation?
Just pick a book and start to read.
Accept being the reader of today to become the leader of tomorrow.
Yeah, maybe it won’t make you overnight success or even feed your stomach but the world always suffered from people having a full stomach but an empty head.