New Year’s Resolution: Fix My Brain

No, the situation is not desperate. However, I am a little concerned about my increasingly limited attention span.

As a woman of a certain age, I am sure there is a biological component *cough.* All the moving doesn’t help, either…

Key indicator: I can’t remember the last time I actually finished a book.

This is not normal for me. I used to go through stacks of books on a regular basis. I was a frequent visitor to the local library when in DC, and bought bundles of paperbacks off eBay while we were overseas. Every time we moved, unloading all the paperbacks in the house was job number one.

Nowadays, my bedtime routine consists of reading a lot of online articles and blog posts on my tablet. Some of them are well worth reading, but let’s face it, a lot of them are not. It’s just so easy, you see, to click around on random things. Before I know it, I’m looking at Boing Boing or Jezebel. Really?

Not that I am a snob about reading. In fact, I rarely read anything generally considered to be “literature.” I like murder mysteries, biographies, and popular history. Even so, finding good books requires effort. I’m getting way too lazy about this!

Apparently, I am not alone. I saw this article (while clicking around) which confirmed my suspicions.

Reading long, literary sentences sans links and distractions is actually a serious skill that you lose if you don’t use it… As we increasingly read on screens, our reading habits have adapted to skim text rather than really absorb the meaning…This sort of nonlinear reading reduces comprehension and actually makes it more difficult to focus the next time you sit down with a longer piece of text.

Aha! So, it’s not my imagination. In fact, there’s apparently a movement to counteract this trend.

Individuals are increasingly finding it difficult to sit down and immerse themselves in a novel. As a result, some researchers and literature-lovers have started a “slow reading” movement, as a way to counteract their difficulty making it through a book. 

Slow-reading advocates recommend at least 30 to 45 minutes of daily reading away from the distractions of modern technology. By doing so, the brain can reengage with linear reading. The benefits of making slow reading a regular habit are numerous, reducing stress and improving your ability to concentrate. 

This is exactly what I used to do, every night before sleeping. Read an actual book, or at least an e-book. And I’m pretty sure I wasn’t such a ditz then.

So, my resolution is to become a Slow Reader once again. To get back into that habit—which was apparently the key to organizing my brain even if I didn’t realize it at the time.

While I am in Arlington, I can easily get books from the library. So, yesterday I went through my Goodreads list and put a couple of books I’ve been wanting to read on hold at the local branch.

Actually, one is an e-book, but that’s OK. I think maybe I’ll buy a cheap Kindle to use for those. I don’t actually mind e-readers, but I think it would be better to use a device that is only for reading, with the special low-glare screen for that purpose, and no other bells and whistles to distract me.

Another result of my short attention span has been that I pay too much for the books I do read. It’s so easy to click Buy Now and spend ten or fifteen bucks on a book I could easily get from the library if I was just a bit more organized about it. I read very fast (I did even before the Internet) so if I pay retail for all my books it gets very expensive.

So, I also resolve to plan far enough ahead to get my e-books from the library while we are in Warsaw. Or at least order them used off Amazon or eBay.

Maybe I’ll put this on my calendar as a monthly task: line up books for the next few weeks!

This is my one and only New Year’s resolution. Wish me luck!


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