Last week I published my first post about books. Don’t know why it took me so long – I’m an introvert and have been in love with books for as long as I can remember.
I don’t like to read just because books, in and of itself, are so cool and awesome (although they are).
I like reading because it helps me to relax and unwind. A good book allows me to forget about that inner voice constantly reminding me of all the duties and unresolved problems. It gives me a chance to sit in quiet and find my own peace.
Isn’t it a definition of self-care? Sounds good enough to me.
Why then I hesitate to call reading self-care?
Don’t get me wrong, I fully agree with all the lists and self-care ideas that contain a good book. But what if it’s not that good or not a book even? What if I read just one page, not even a chapter?
When does reading turn from a simple everyday activity into self-care?
I’d been asking myself these questions – and then decided to find answers. And share them with you, of course! So buckle up, let’s have a quick ride over why reading counts as self-care and how to get the most out of it.
Is Reading Self-Care?
Of course, it is, at least when it comes to reading books. At least when you take time to sit and focus on the words in front of your eyes (or in your ears – audiobooks count too).
But what about that textbook you’ve been trying to get through for ages? Or a long personal email that feels like a whole letter? Or even that very post you’re reading right now?
We read all the time – but not everything counts as self-care.
Self-care is anything we do for ourselves, our health, and wellbeing, intentionally.
If you read a fictional story for work, it still counts as work. If you skim through a scientific journal for an essay, it’s a part of your essay. No matter how interesting an article is, if you found it on social media or while doing research, it isn’t self-care.
But if you dedicate 5 minutes each day to reading something for yourself, that is self-care.
Especially, if you have a consistent reading habit that keeps you connected with the world of books. Even adults need novels and fairy tales to feel better.
I couldn’t grasp it at first, and that’s where all my questions came from. That’s why not every text feels pleasant to the eyes – because not every time I read, I do it for myself.
Great, I got my answer! But what’s next?
Reading has been my favorite hobby for ages – but now it turned into an automatic process rather than something I enjoy. I read so many articles and SNS posts I barely have time for books. And even when I reach them, I still get distracted with busy thoughts!
I have good news for you then, because there’s an easy way to develop a reading habit and make it a part of your self-care routine!
But first, let’s find out if reading’s even worth it.
Why Reading Is Good
I’m sure you know that it’s good for you. Not because teachers or parents told you, but because it’s kind of obvious?
The more you read, the bigger your vocabulary gets, the more knowledge you gain, the more empathetic you become. A good book helps you grow while you’re reading.
But even more benefits appear when you keep your reading habit consistent! Here are just a few of them:
I’m sure you know how a simple book can help you relax and let go of everyday stress.
A good story? Quiet room? No distractions – just you and the book? Nothing can beat this. And science confirms!
In a 2009 study, researchers from Sussex University tested different strategies for stress-reducing, from a cup of tea to video games. They found out that the most effective way to relax was, you get it, reading.
Doesn’t even have to be a fiction book. It’s enough to read anything for just about 6 minutes – and your stress level will go down up to 68%!
Good idea to always keep an eBook somewhere close, huh?
And when stress goes away, you feel better! That’s where addiction to books comes from. It’s impossible to not feel lighter after a few pages of a really good book.
But we’re talking about long-term effects, right?
In that case, reading means optimism and motivation. And let me tell you, when you have ongoing mental health problems, it’s a big deal.
Can’t promise reading is gonna save you from depression – but it’ll bring much-needed light into your life. And as this light will stay for longer, the grip of your negative thoughts will ease.
Reading is based on your imagination. Otherwise, you’d be staring at the words without any chance to grasp the concept.
But let me say something like hey, blue elephant! And the image will pop up in your head. More even, the blue elephant you imagined is different from others. Isn’t it cool?
Just like that, every time you read something, your imagination expands. Your mind draws pictures you’d never be able to see in real life – and learns plasticity.
And the better your imagination works, the more creative you become. You’ll be able to find new solutions, come up with new ideas, write and speak more expressively – and everything thanks to a book!
Imagination works not only with practical tasks. Being able to understand how another person feels is an asset for your day-to-day life.
It helps you build stronger, more sincere relationships with people around you and even understand yourself better. Yup, empathy works both ways!
So, when you’ll be reading another fictional story, know that you’re receiving a lesson on what it’s like not to be you.
Basically, reading makes you smarter. Or provides cognitive stimulation, to make it sound smart already.
Not only textbooks and non-fiction books can teach you something. Every single book contains something you didn’t know before.
Fictional stories give you all kinds of lessons, from psychology to history to cooking and painting. Sounds incredible?
But you don’t have to read dry facts, theories, or instructions to understand how the world works! If a character in a story learns something, you learn it along with them.
Of course, textbooks and non-fiction provide a much better foundation for exploring something in detail. Just don’t brush fiction off as something unproductive and unworthy of attention.
Every book is a jewel on its own.
And, well, that should be enough for self-care, right?
How To Develop a Reading Habit
Now all you need to include reading in your self-care routine is down below! Follow the guidelines and, better even, note them in your journal or planner.
(Ps-st, if you don’t have one, grab a free printable self-care planner over here.)
Decide How Often
The next three steps repeat my tips for making a self-care routine, so if you’ve read my post on self-care, skip ahead to point #4.
Otherwise, let’s get started! The first thing you need to establish is how often you want to (or can) take time specifically for reading. No work, no chores, no texting – just you and the book.
Once a week? Once a day? Twice a day? Think it through and decide on what suits you best.
10 minutes? 15 minutes? One hour? Two hours? There are dozens of options, so, again, decide for yourself.
If you’re not an avid fan of reading, start with something small like 15 minutes and watch if it works for you. I can’t imagine a scenario in which reading doesn’t work – but I believe it can happen.
But even if you’re an introvert with an inexplicable passion for reading, don’t put your whole daily routine upside down just to fit 4 hours of reading.
Be reasonable. Choose what works best for your wishes and your daily agenda.
The final step of preparations: Decide on the time of the day.
Your first choice might be night, in bed, right before falling asleep – but don’t think it’s the only option!
Maybe you’re a morning person, and it’d be easier to stretch your morning routine for 15 minutes longer. Maybe you can take a break at work and allow your mind to let go of the afternoon stress.
Or maybe you chose to read once a week – but for 1-2 hours at once? Then you have a whole weekday for yourself, although still, choose a particular time. It makes the routine more stable.
But, of course, reading before bed counts too! Just make sure to not push your sleep routine for the sake of reading, or your wish to take care of yourself will make things worse.
And if you need help with establishing your daily routine, check my post over here for simple guidelines and a couple of printable planners.
Get Somewhere Quiet
Now that we established when and where we’re going to read, let’s skip to the part where it’s already happening.
Before pulling out a book (or unblocking your e-reader), choose a good place to read. Somewhere you can focus on the words and not get distracted.
It can be your room, your car, a nearby park, or even your favorite café. If you feel relaxed enough to switch attention from your surroundings to the book in your hand, the place is perfect.
Turn Off Phone Notifications
Not necessary, actually, but so helpful.
It’s very easy to get distracted with beeps and vibrations coming out of your pocket. You don’t even have to check your phone, but the sound itself will make you itchy.
And no, don’t try to tell me you don’t react to notifications. If you have them on, your brain already knows how to respond to that particular sound. And this reaction doesn’t include any books or stories.
So, to focus properly and get the most out of your experience, please, mute your phone.
Read Only “Good” Books
And by good I mean the ones you see as good.
We all have different tastes, and what you see as the best book ever may be boring or silly for me (and vice versa). So many different genres exist for a reason.
Choose what you like.
These days every book in every format has a short description. Even audiobooks and eBooks have excerpts allowing you to check the content and find out if it’s what you’re looking for.
Before diving into the book, first, figure out if it’s something worthy of your attention or you’ll have to drop after a couple of chapters. Also, about that…
Drop the Books You Don’t Enjoy
If you don’t like a book, just drop it. As simple as that.
Reading habit has to be enjoyable and relaxing, especially if you see it as a self-care tool. If the author’s style, or the book’s pace, or the overall mood makes you want to stop – do it.
I’m not saying you have to get rid of a book as soon as you come across something you don’t like! You never know where the rest of the book will take you, so always give it a go.
But if reading turns from a pleasant experience into an obligation, think once again if it’s worth it. There are thousands of amazing books waiting for you on the shelf (both physical and digital).
And remember, you can come back to reading anytime!
It’s a great hobby that’ll do wonders for your mind and worldview. If you’re in the mood and have a free minute, grab that book (or reader) and dive right back in.
Whatever you do for self-care, it counts even outside of your routine. Just remember – intentionally!
Hope this post was helpful – and if it was, let me know in the comments! How often do you read? Do you see it as self-care? What’s your favorite book?