On a daily reading habit

In January 2021 I gave myself a challenge to read for thirty minutes a day, every day for a month.

Prior to lockdown in March last year I read on weekdays on my commute. I had two and half hours a day on trains and tubes and at least some of that time was for reading. Then we shifted to working from home. So many upsides to that; and one significant downside. I stopped reading.

It has always felt self-indulgent to read at home. I guess it feels self-indulgent to read at all, but when I’m on train there’s not much else I can do so the two things have become closely connected in my mind. As I wasn’t on a train on an almost daily basis, I wasn’t reading.

Naturally, that didn’t mean I stopped buying books. I just stopped reading them. Or, slowed is more accurate. It’s not like I didn’t read anything between March 2020 and January 2021, I just didn’t do it very often.

Some things I know. Watching TV too much isn’t great for my mental health. My mood slips gradually the more TV I watch and sometimes it takes a while to catch it. At the end of the working day I am tired and it seems like watching TV is a low energy activity and picking up a book will be too much effort for my eyes and brain. I love reading and making time for it makes me feel better, yet somehow it’s hard to do when I’m not on a train.

With the change of routine and the uncertainty of 2020, unusually I felt the need for new year’s resolutions. I needed some small goals and structures for my non-working life, so I decided to give myself twelve monthly challenges, starting in January with reading for thirty minutes a day, every day.

In January, I cracked through about twelve books, plus finished off a few I’d started reading but not quite completed. There was one I started but didn’t like, so discarded it. I’ve grown out of reading books I’m not enjoying for the sake of completeness. I found that if I started the day with thirty minutes reading, I’d often spend another few hours in the afternoons and evenings reading too. I’m not going to tell you that reading consistently made me a better person in some way, because that’s not what it’s about. I can’t say I was more productive or more creative or more informed. It just made me happier.

The twelve monthly challenges thing lasted until March. Then I lost interest. The daily reading habit has stuck. It’s nice to wake up in the morning knowing the first thing I’m going to do is read my book for half an hour. My days are better because of it.

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