Reading your way to calm
When you read articles on your phone or computer, chances are you'll only get through half of it before you skim over to something else.
A number of research projects suggest that many of us no longer have the concentration to read articles through to their conclusion.
Does this matter?
On the upside, this grazing habit enables us to collect a wide range of factual titbits. This can give us a superficial understanding of a wide range of topics - and is great for dinner party quips! But the downside is that we're forgetting how to sit back, contemplate, and connect facts to each other. Another disadvantage of this habit, the experts say, is that it can add to our feeling of business, information overload and of skimming over the surface of life.
According to The Shallows by Nicolas Carr, our our hyperactive online habits are even damaging the mental faculties we need to process and understand lengthy textual information.
The good news is that there's a simple way to combat this unfortunate habit.
It's simply to choose to read a book to read from start to finish. Pick a decent sized book covering a topic that is of interest to you. Give yourself permission to read it slowly - taking as long as you need.
If you want to enjoy the benefits of the deep experience of a book, if you want to internalise it, to mix an author's ideas with your own and make it a more personal experience, you have to read slowly.
Some months back I went to the Auckland Writer's Festival and had the pleasure of hearing AN Wilson speak. Afterward I bought several of his books and waited in the cue to meet him and have him sign the books. Since then I have making my slow way through his biography of Queen Victoria.
It’s a long book with small print. I read it slowly because it’s complicated. Occasionally I look up words. I read it while waiting to pick up my teenage kids from various after school activities. It feels really good to be reading this book and to be slowly gaining a better understanding of the politics of social change over the period of Victoria's long reign.
When I concentrate on this book the focus required pushes all other thoughts away. It puts me in a bubble of calm whenever I pick it up.