That Book on Your Nightstand Has a Message for You

Behavioral experts seem to agree that it takes about three weeks … 21 days of consistent effort … to ingrain a new habit. This goes for exercise routines, eating habits, creating art, writing every day, or doing something good for your brain like reading in print.

These days our normal habits have all been wildly disrupted, and many of us are thinking of how to fill some of the newfound time we have at home. How about picking up a good book for 15 minutes a day?

“Reading, like playing a musical instrument or speaking a second language or exercising, involves habit,” notes Naomi S. Baron, a linguistics professor at American University, in the How Life Unfolds blog. “There are times we spend the whole day reading a book. But we also go for stretches when at best we glance at news headlines or check incoming text messages. When we do pick up that book again, it can take some settling in before feeling we are home.”

The challenge, the article continues, is that we have a lot of reading platforms clamoring for our attention. And while that book just sits there quietly on the nightstand, our devices ding and buzz in a constant effort to be held.

Let’s fight back, and start reading more print. As you develop (or recommit to) the habit, you’ll notice some real benefits:

  • Better concentration in print (try reading Anna Karenina on your Kindle.)
  • Improved recall in print
  • The experience of disconnecting from the world and “getting lost” in the pages

“In a study I did with over 400 university students in five countries, 92 percent of participants said the reading platform on which they concentrate best is print. Students complained about distractions when reading onscreen,” Baron writes. “And as we know, if you’re distracted, your stress level can go up and attention span goes down.”

Can’t find 15 minutes a day? I bet you might if you simply put down your phone a little earlier before bed. Reading a print book is a great way to unwind from the day, and will promote healthier sleep than reading on your screen at night, an activity that has been proven to disrupt sleep patterns in our brains.