While we are all well aware of the many benefits reading can have for our mental and physical health, not many of us know that the reading experience can be enhanced through a series of small adjustments. One of the most important things that can change your reading experience and the overall results you get through reading is to start reading mindfully.
Here at Basmo, we are fully aware of the many benefits reading has for our bodies, minds, and souls, and we developed the app basing it on our belief that reading more is equivalent to a better life.
Adding an extra layer of consciousness to your reading habits can have a significant impact on the way you benefit from this amazing activity.
So, what exactly is mindful reading and how to read mindfully? We studied this intensely here at Basmo and below you will find everything you need to know about mindfulness in reading.
What is mindfulness?
First things first. We all heard of mindfulness, as the concept has become increasingly popular in recent years, but how many of us really understand it? Well, by its very definition, mindfulness represents a state of complete awareness, of being fully present. Being mindful means being completely aware of who we are, where we are, what we are doing, and why, without letting those things overwhelm us.
Mindfulness is not something we are born with. It is something we can all achieve, by using the proper techniques and the right mindset. It is a concept that can be applied to every single aspect of our lives and it can be cultivated through a series of meditation techniques.
Before moving on to exploring the art of mindful reading, it is also important to know that mindfulness comes with a series of remarkable benefits:
- Reduces anxiety and depression
- Increases our ability to regulate our emotions
- Improves memory
- Helps alleviate stress
- Makes us think more clearly and flexibly
- Improves physical health
- Helps us develop more meaningful relationships
Those of you who are already aware of the many benefits reading has to offer will notice that many of the mindfulness advantages match to a certain extent those we can gain from reading. So, since the connection between reading and mindfulness starts to become obvious, let’s dive into the matter a bit more in-depth.
What is mindful reading?
Mindful reading is a reflection process, a type of conscious reading that involves awareness, attentiveness, and introspection. Reading mindfully means, to a certain extent, letting go of any distracting thoughts and being fully immersed in the story or the reading material we are going through.
It is radically different from regular reading, which is usually taken for granted by most of us due to the fact that it is such a common activity. Mindful reading needs to be done slower, with a clear intention to understand and become one with the text, not the usual race to finish it that we are generally used to. This process leads to a much more complex reading experience, one that leads you to a state of calm awareness and a much deeper and meaningful understanding of the reading material.
Mindful reading is, if you will, the opposite of speed reading.
I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in 20 minutes. It involves Russia.Woody Allen
Regular reading comes with a singular purpose: getting through the reading material and finishing it.
Mindful reading is more about the journey than the destination. Reading mindfully means going deeper into the meaning of the book, trying to relate to the characters and the author, trying to see the different situations through the eyes of those involved, and, in the end, having a much deeper understanding of the book.
If you really want to understand the difference between regular reading and mindful reading, here at Basmo we recommend a simple exercise: focus on your breathing. Do you notice how the air goes in and out of your lungs? That’s it. Reading normally is the equivalent of breathing automatically to survive, reading mindfully is the equivalent of breathing while paying attention to the way you do it.
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Benefits of mindful reading
As you would expect, reading mindfully comes with a series of benefits. Combining two extremely beneficial activities (reading and mindful meditation) can only lead to amazing results.
Here are the most important benefits of applying a mindful reading technique every now and again.
1. Mindful reading shifts your focus from outside factors, bringing your attention inward
Why is that important? Because outside factors are usually the ones disturbing our inner peace, stressing us out, or making us anxious. Within, we will be able to find peace and relaxation, so moving our focus inwards, we tend to forget about the stressors.
2. You enjoy the best of both worlds
From stress reduction to actually lowering your blood pressure and heart rate, both work wonders for our physical and mental health. Mindful reading is equivalent to enhancing both experiences and extracting the best possible outcome from each.
3. You gain a deeper understanding of the text you’re reading
Reading mindfully and going more in-depth in the reading material we are going through will inevitably lead to a much better understanding. We will gain more knowledge from the books we read, and we will learn even more life lessons. Reading mindfully has a huge impact on our ability to relate to others, making us more empathetic, which, in turn, will make us better people overall. We will find it a lot easier to understand why certain people act the way they do, we will be more accepting of others, other cultures, and other points of view.
4. You will enjoy reading a lot more
As I was saying, reading mindfully focuses more on the journey than on the destination. This means that the reading experience will be a much more profound one, you will have a whole different spectrum of feelings, and you will learn to love reading even more than you already do. While reading mindfully, you will reach a state of awareness in which the simple act of turning a page will bring you joy.
Should you be reading mindfully?
Absolutely. Mindful reading is food for our souls. It can heal our inner wounds, it can make us see the world through the eyes of others, it can help us reach new levels of understanding, and it can help us find the inner peace we all thought was long lost.
Here at Basmo, we believe that every single one of us should engage in some mindful reading sessions at least once in a while. Always reading mindfully is not something that is to be expected of anyone. But at least a couple of mindful reading sessions every week can work wonders for each and every one of us.
Learning to read mindfully is not too complicated. All we really need is some quiet, a will to do it and the right mindset. Mindfulness is not something we are born with, but it is something that we need to cultivate throughout our lives.
How to read mindfully?
If you’re now convinced that learning how to read mindfully is what you want to do, Basmo is here to help in more ways than one!
Here is our step-by-step guide to mindful reading:
1. Create a reading schedule
As you already know now, mindful reading is not about speed. Even though you can and should try to squeeze a 15 minutes reading session on your commute to work, because that will bring you at least some of the results you’re hoping for, mindful reading is something that can benefit from a clear schedule if you have the time and organizational skills to set some time aside.
The best way to do this is by using a reading tracking app like Basmo, which allows you to create a highly customizable reading schedule in just a couple of taps.
Within the app, you can choose separate times on separate days for each reading session so that you can adjust them according to your regular daily schedule.
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Track the books you read, monitor the time you spend reading and keep notes on your reading habits and how it makes you feel. You can set yourself targets for the time you spend reading and you can get notified whenever you’re behind on your reading time.
2. Choose the book carefully
The process of reading mindfully starts with the way you choose the book you are about to read. Regardless of the format you decide to read in, whether it’s paperback or e-books, the thought process of selecting a title to read is crucial.
Why are you reading that particular book? What are you hoping to achieve by reading it? What sort of value is it going to bring to your life? Having the answers to all these questions is one of the first steps you need to go through for achieving mindful reading.
Mindful reading is an introspective process, which focuses the attention on how you react to things you read, how you choose the books you want to read, and understanding the importance of being fully present in the moment for every single page you read.
Once you’ve chosen your book and answered all the questions about the reasoning behind reading it, it’s time for a break. It might seem weird to start a reading session with a break, but taking a couple of deep breaths, trying to clear your mind, and getting ready to absorb the information you are about to go through mindfully is going to help.
3. Forget about the location
Many consider a mindful reading session only to be achievable under certain conditions: in a comfortable place, with a glass of wine, in perfect silence. While not all of us can afford the luxury of taking time for ourselves, it doesn’t mean that mindful reading is reserved only for those who do.
As I mentioned above, a mindful reading session revolves around you more than it does around your environment. If you understand the concept and start getting used to the process of reading mindfully, you can do it anytime, anywhere, regardless of how busy you are or how hectic your days are.
A 15 minutes reading session on the subway can be a mindful reading session, regardless of what others will tell you. If you focus on yourself and your reading, 15 minutes is more than enough to read a couple of pages that will change your mood or spark curiosities.
4. Read slowly, word for word
Mindful reading is done by savoring every single word on every single page you go through. Pay attention to the way the author arranges the words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs. Try to internally vocalize what you read and hear how melodical the writing is.
Do the words form interesting connections? Are the words carefully chosen to enhance the reading experience?
5. Check-in on your emotions
You should pay attention to how what you’re reading makes you feel. Take quick moments to analyze what is going on within you. How is the book affecting your mood? Are you happy, sad, eager to read more? Internalize all this information and make sure to keep it in mind.
A particularly helpful tool in this process is, again, Basmo. Because we know how important keeping your feelings in check is, we introduced a couple of features in our app to help you with this. After every reading session, you are prompted to select an emoji that best represents your emotional state.
All this information is stored within the app, and it is also used for generating a weekly feelings report, which can help you analyze how your emotions changed throughout the last 7 days and how your reading sessions influenced your emotional state.
On top of this, you can use the journal feature of the app, especially if you don’t want to mark down your emotions only at the end of reading sessions, but also during. Simply open the app while reading and start typing your thoughts and describe the feelings the current book is generating.
6. Make notes
Taking notes while reading is also a big part of a mindful reading session. Whether it’s an interesting word you discovered, a quote you want to remember, or simply some of your thoughts about the book, you should never refrain from doing so. This also enhances the reading experience by activating a larger and more complex area of your brain, which intensifies the brain activity and ensures that you will remember more of what you read.
Basmo’s note-taking feature is a particularly facile one, as it is automatically activated the second a reading session is started.
All you have to do while reading mindfully, is to pick up your phone, open the app and start typing.
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7. Take breaks
Breaks are particularly important during mindful reading sessions. In order for your mind to be constantly focused and able to process all the information it needs to process, you need to give it a chance to rest every once in a while.
Since reading sessions within Basmo are timed, you can use the app to make sure you don’t allow yourself to get too lost in the book and forget about breaks, getting too tired in the end to be able to fully enjoy the experience.
Final thoughts on mindful reading
Learning how to read mindfully is going to completely change the way you look at reading as a pastime activity. There is a lot to gain from mindful reading, and Basmo is always here to make the experience better and more efficient.