A Hack to Enjoy Reading Again

Has it been a while since you were really bitten, hog-tied and spell-bound by a book?  Do most books you read these days seem okay, but not super-duper fantastic the way they used to be even five years ago?

I can help you change that.

We’re Too Busy These days.

I grew up in Australia, where people really like their downtime and guard it zealously.

North Americans, on the other hand, are easily the hardest working people I’ve ever met.  Shops are open all weekend, and there’s no such thing as a nine-to-five job.  People work through lunch, and stay after five to catch up.  We monitor calls and emails after hours and deal with crises.  Women in particular have all the additional responsibilities of running a house and child-rearing that seem to fall into their laps, including all the taxi-service duties.

There are thousands of people who work second jobs just to pay the bills, too. Then there are the undisclosed millions of us who aspire to greater things, and are moonlighting or working away at potential or developing alternative careers outside of our five day work weeks, while still trying to maintain some semblance of a life.

We work our asses off and crowd instant entertainment into the cracks and margins of what is left of our lives once the work is done.  We all know life has got faster and busier.  I’m not making a new point here.

But you can slow down time.

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity has demonstrated conclusively that our perception of time is subjective.

Here’s a demonstration.  If you’re already feeling a little impatient because this blog starting off in the strangest place, has been meandering on for too long and you want to get to the good stuff, already, and when am I going to shut up, anyway…

Feel that tension in your gut?

Just below the sternum.  There.  You can even press your fingertips into your abdomen and feel how tight you’re clenched.

Now, while your fingers are still touching your belly, draw in a deep, deep breath, so that your fingers are pushed outwards.  Really get the air right down to the bottom of your lungs.  Hold it there for a few seconds, then exhale slowly.

Repeat that slow inhale and exhale and really bottom-out your breath, four or five times.  Do it properly.  Don’t skip, don’t fudge.

All the tension in your gut should be gone.

And the relationship that tension has to time?

From start to finish, you’ve been reading this post at the same highly efficient speed as you’ve always read.  Reading is so ingrained in the adult reader that if I were to ask you to tell me what the colour of this font was:  Purple, your first instinct would be to say “purple”, not red, because you read the word before you processed the colour.

But while you were reading the first part of the post, you were tense, worrying about everything else you had to do, and trying to skim through it fast so you could get the gist of it and move on.

With the deep breathing exercise, I just helped you remove the tension.  And with the promise of a demonstration, I hopefully snagged your attention fully and completely.  You’re now concentrating fully on my words, and processing them completely, rather than skimming or skipping.

The fact is, you’re not reading any slower than you were when you first started reading the post.  If anything, your reading speed will have picked up, because you’re reading more efficiently.  Why?  Because you’re not trying to do anything else.  You’re not multi-tasking.  You’re only reading this post, so all your attention is on processing these words.

You’re probably enjoying the reading process, now you’re nice and relaxed, too.

So.  It feels like you’re taking your time, slowing down and enjoying reading this post.  Yet you’re reading as fast, if not faster, and absorbing more.

Time is very elastic, isn’t it?

Next time you pick up a book to read, try this.  Deep breathe, relax and tell yourself you’re going to slow down and enjoy the story. See what happens.

By the way, this works for almost everything.

You can slow down time by relaxing and concentrating, whenever you need to.  It just takes practice.