Reading, Smartphones and Mental Health

I recently found this wonderful blog post by Books Nest entitled “Are smartphones distracting us from reading more books faster?”.

In the post, Beth talks about giving herself a personal challenge to put down her phone in order to spend more quality time reading and the results were amazing for her. “I am for sure seeing results from this, I’m feeling more creative, calmer and I’m enjoying my books more.” Beth claims.

The decision for Beth to read more without distractions really resonated with me. Like Beth, my desire to read more and put away distractions came one sunny bank holiday weekend last year. I read 3 amazing books in 4 days, sat out in my garden in the sun (these were I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai, Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie and Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel). And for me, that is where my love of reading was really rekindled.

I used to devour books as a child but this started to wain as a teenager when the pressures of exams and socialising came to the fore. As a result, for about 10 years, the only time I really read was on holiday. When I got a smartphone and Facebook at the age of 18 (yeah, late bloomer), the distractions were immense for me.

Since that sunny Easter weekend, I’ve since discovered Goodreads and now the world of books on Twitter and blogs. I’ve set myself reading goals which spur me on (I’m incredible competitive).

Reading has also become my solace. I have a high pressure job which often leaves me emotionally exhausted. Sometimes, my anxiety and depression becomes so crippling that I find it hard to emerge from under my blanket and take to binge-watching TV without really focusing on what is going on, reaching for my phone and scrolling social media. Books change that for me. I put my phone aside, or put it on silent and tuck it away if I want to listen to some ambient sounds on Spotify, and it is the one way I feel like I can escape from the swirl of thoughts inside my head.

I have to say, though, there is a little bit of a downside. My competitive nature to always be on top has pushed me to refuse to DNF books as I feel like I’ve failed (even though the really rational side of me knows that this is totally not the case). I also get quite envious of other people’s gorgeous bookshelves and all the recent releases people get to read as I feel like I’m behind the times and I can’t really afford to drop loads of money on the latest release. Instead of spending £20 on the newest hyped hardback, I research novels on Goodreads that seem like my cup of tea and hunt them down on eBay. When I can frequently buy 3 books for about £5, why would I not!?

What I have to remind myself is that reading is a deeply personal experience. We can’t always like the same books. We won’t always read the most, the latest or the popular books that everyone is talking about. And that’s okay. Reading is very much my happy place. I hope it is yours, too.

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