Uh, Are You Reading Wrong? Here's How To Tell & What To Do About It
Whether you're an avid bookworm or an occasional browser, plenty of experts agree that reading is a worthy pastime. After all, research backs up its benefits for visual processing, brain health, stress reduction, brain connectivity, and even our capacity for empathy1. And while the physical act of reading might seem straightforward (just, uh, crack open the book?), author and entrepreneur Thatcher Wine identifies one common habit that can derail all those aforementioned benefits.
Below, Wine shares how to tell if you're reading wrong.
How to tell if you're reading wrong.
First things first: Wine doesn't believe there are many stringent rules when it comes to reading. "I don't think there's a right or wrong [way]," he explains on the mindbodygreen podcast. "If you're reading, you're doing it right."
Although, reading is unique in that it requires your full, undivided attention. "If your mind wanders and you just keep flipping the pages, you've got to go back. You didn't get anything," he says. You can't immerse yourself into a literary world if your thoughts are elsewhere. "That's a feature, not a flaw, of printed books—they really require 100% of your attention."
According to this definition, reading qualifies as a monotask, or Wine's shorthand for mindfully engaging in a single activity. And therein lies the key to participating in it effectively: "You can't multitask while you're reading. That's when you're doing it wrong," he says. "If you have your phone out, or if somebody interrupts you from the next room, or if you're reading while going up an escalator... That's probably not such a great idea."
Rather, to reap the benefits of a reading session, it's important to sit down with the book (even for only a few minutes) and try to focus on nothing else but the pages in front of you. Of course, this may be easier with physical books; you may become more distracted by pings and other to-do's while reading a digital copy. If you are reading on a screen, perhaps turn off your notifications to keep those distractions to a minimum. But get this: The more you read, says Wine, "you'll find that your ability to pay attention and resist distractions [increases]." It's like you're strengthening your focus muscles.
So how long should you read, you ask? "One recommendation I have is to read a little bit every day," says Wine. "It could be five minutes; it could be 20 minutes." (For brain health, neuroscientist Kristen Willeumier, Ph.D., suggests reading for at least 15 minutes per day.) No matter how many minutes you spend with the story, it's a worthy investment: "Reading is a good example of how we can give our attention to one thing and get it back even stronger," Wine adds.
According to Wine, as long as you're fully immersing yourself in a book, you're reading correctly. Not to mention, it's a fantastic exercise for strengthening your focus, and it can start small—just a few minutes per day.
Olivia Giacomo is mbg's Social Media Associate. A recent graduate from Georgetown University, she has previously written for LLM Law Review.