For many university students, reading for pleasure is a habit that gets lost during their first year of post-secondary. With heavy course loads that include required textbook readings, labs, group projects, hours of research for assignments, and extensive studying for tests, sitting down and reading a book may be the last thing on anyone’s mind.
There are many ways to decompress from all the stress that comes with your studies. Once I started university in the fall of 2016, I found myself relying on social media to escape all the anxiety I was feeling from my classes. Connecting to the online world and scrolling aimlessly on Instagram allowed me to shut off my brain from the tasks at hand during designated breaks. Over time, I’ve found that being on “zombie-mode” on my phone leaves me more drained while studying and working on papers. After a year of online school during the global pandemic, reading became a creative outlet for me. Getting back into the habit of reading on my study breaks gave my mind the space it needed to relax and come back to my work more refreshed and focused. If you’ve fallen out of love with reading for pleasure since starting university and wish to return to this pastime, here are some ways to do it:
Make it a trade-off: Unplug. With addictive social media algorithms from Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and Twitter designed to keep you tuned in, you may be surprised by how much time in your day goes to your phone. Many phones come equipped with the ability to tell their users how many hours a day they’re spending on their phone and what apps they use the most. By adjusting your settings, you can manage the time spent on your favourite apps and allow your phone to send you notifications of when your daily screen time is up. If that timer goes off and you’re still looking for entertainment, take this opportunity to read. You’ll be amazed by how much pleasure reading you can get done in your day-to-day life once you try replacing your typical screen time with allotted reading time.
Re-read a book or series from your youth. Perhaps there’s a book from your childhood that first got you interested in reading or a book from your teenage years that you were a die-hard fan of. Turning back to these beloved books can make the goal of reading for pleasure again a little easier, as you already know the story and don’t have to work as hard to keep track of the characters, settings, and rules of the story world. For me, re-reading the Harry Potter series was a nostalgic experience and reminded me why I fell in love with reading in the first place. However, if find you’re getting bored reading a book you’ve read before, consider it a just warm-up – then dive into a book that excites you and you’ve always wanted to read.
Set feasible reading goals and track your progress. Setting a reading challenge or goal for the year will give you something to work towards. There are many ways to do this such as a Google Spreadsheet (easily available through your MUN Google Account), a log in a notebook, the Goodreads app, and even a more visual aid such as stacking the books you’ve read on a designated shelf or display. I started with the goal of reading 12 books a year (equivalent to 1 book a month) but you can adjust this to your reading speed and what you think is manageable with your classes.
Start small and work your way up. Perhaps a full blown novel is too much of a commitment with your course load. A novella, a book of poetry, a graphic novel, manga or a collection of short stories may be more feasible. However, if novels are more your style, try reading in small quantities to start off. You could read on study breaks and set a timer or only read a chapter or set number of pages a day.
Try an audio book. If you’re getting eye strain from studying or find yourself more content to listen to someone read aloud than silently reading by yourself, an audio book may be a good option for you. With audio book libraries like Audible that can be downloaded onto your phone, you can take your books with you can listen to them in the car, on the bus, at the gym, or walking to class.
Read in bed before you turn the lights out. If you simply do not have enough time in the day to sit down and read for a moment, reading at bedtime is a great solution. Even if it’s just for ten minutes, getting into the habit of reading before you go to sleep can help your mind wind down from a busy day of classes. One of the bad habits that I’ve been guilty of (and I’m sure many students are) is scrolling through social media before bed. Breaking this habit by opening a book and exploring a fictional world can be a more mindful activity as you relax for the night. You may even find yourself more well-rested the next morning and actually looking forward to this designated downtime at the end of the day.