It’s simple and free: time to read. I don’t know if you’re going to receive any books for Christmas and you may not know either but there’s one way to be sure: go the the library one day this week and load up. It doesn’t matter if you only read one of them during the holiday period, what matters is that you give yourself time and permission to do so. I’m giving you permission – you find the time. And don’t tell me you’re too busy – I’m pretty sure I’m as busy as you but I will find time, even if it’s only five minutes before I fall asleep! I will find that time because I care about my brain and body and because I know that I’ll work better (and be nicer) if I look after myself and have some time for me.
Even better: family reading time. I’m not suggesting you can get everyone to do it at the same time but every now and then in a busy house there could be “on your own time”, and during that time books could be the main suggestion – not compulsory, as I don’t like that idea, but strongly encouraged.
One important tip: don’t judge your own reading material and don’t judge your child’s reading choice. All is fair in reading for pleasure. The clue is in the word “pleasure”. You know how undermining it is if someone disparages your choices? Same applies to children and teenagers.
Here’s a neat video about some of the benefits of reading for young people and I’ve written about this myself – for example, here for a discussion of benefits and how to talk about the benefits and here for the whole category – but the most important benefit in my opinion is that reading gives us time, space and permission to switch off, find peace and not be bombarded by expectations, requests, and the need to respond. We can settle our mind into a different zone and dive into a new way of thinking and feeling.
Reading is to the brain what having a long, hot bath is to the body.
Even better: read in the bath. (But don’t drop a library book in…)