Why you should get back into the habit of reading

The habit of reading can benefit your overall mental health and self-improvement.

Sarah Chan

Likes museum trips and is sometimes artsy. Can be found in pattern prints.

Published: 20 November 2020, 11:26 AM

As I spoke to my friends recently, I couldn’t help but notice a running sentiment among youths my age: We are reading less than we did before.

What used to be a habit of spending hours on end buried in books has become an inconsistent, fleeting habit that never stuck around. With social media, it is much easier to share memes and watch countless 30-second videos recommended for you on TikTok instead.

But our attention span is shortening. As we accustom ourselves to the endless stream of content online, we are conditioned to expect things almost instantly. Reading a book is simply harder because it is an activity that requires our focused attention instead.

But not all hope is lost and you can still make a change. Not convinced? Here are three reasons why you should consider picking up the habit of reading again.

Relieving stress and improving focus

My main excuse to choose my phone over a book was often because of time and energy.

Unwinding to a K-drama on Netflix is an almost mindless activity and staying updated on the latest happenings on social media is how I chose to satiate that feeling of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) since everyone is online.

Yet ironically, the very source of what we seek to de-stress is instead a cause of distress. With instant updates about the world around us, it can quickly become an information overload even with the short amount of time we spend online.


Reading helps to lower your stress levels by slowing your heart rate and relaxing your muscles. PHOTO CREDIT: NATHAN DUMLO VIA UNSPLASH


If you find yourself feeling fatigued or anxious using social media, perhaps you should consider reading for at least six minutes.

It has been proven that six minutes of reading is more effective in relieving stress than going for a walk or drinking tea. The activity is a healthy distraction from the daily stressors you face, allowing your body to relax almost effortlessly as you dive into a story.

Reading provides you with that needed escape as your mind is actively engaged in piecing the sequence of a story together. This leaves little room for other frivolous distractions when you focus solely on the journey that lies ahead in the story.

Settle down with some soft ambient music and dedicate your time to disconnect and read. Let your mind wander and who knows what difference a little reading can make you feel.

Experiencing life through another person's eyes

As I reach the halfway mark through Michelle Obama’s autobiography Becoming, I’ve learnt what life was like for the former First Lady as she recounts growing up in the neighbourhoods of Chicago.

Biographies tell the story of the life of someone from a different social context, which brings us closer to the realities faced by others that we never knew.

Reading the biography of someone successful like Michelle Obama was inspiring. Her book gave a personal narrative from her moments of grief to finding a career of meaning and purpose as a young adult – a story that is not often shared with the public eye.


Reading let’s you live vicariously through the characters of each story.


There is much to extract from what we can learn from books and the connections formed between a reader and a story is just as valuable for the life ahead of us.

As author George R.R. Martin once wrote: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”

Improving language skills

As students, we often assume that memorisation helps when preparing for our exams.

But the process of regurgitating information in our heads is easily forgettable and removes the purpose of learning meaningfully to retain what we have learnt effectively.

The same can be said for language learning, as it is a subject that relies on consistent exposure and practise instead.


Learn along the way by keeping a dictionary and notebook close to look up new words you read. PHOTO CREDIT: DEBBY HUDSON VIA UNSPLASH


Reading extensively is said to improve language learning as it expands your mental dictionary when learning new vocabulary. The use of a word in context, its tone and how it is used formally or informally allows us to understand the meanings of the words easily.

Assessment books aside, perhaps consider setting up a habit of reading regularly and have a notebook on hand to record new vocabulary picked up along the way.

Reading can be just as entertaining and enjoyable as any other activity. Start small with a book that you fancy – no matter the difficulty level – and make time to read each day.

By swapping some screen time for the books, you might soon find yourself enjoying this activity like never before.

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