Is ‘slow reading’ a fast track to stress free living?

You’ve probably heard of the ‘slow food movement’, which teaches us to eschew fast food and embrace wholesome stuff like local suppliers, seasonal produce and home cooked goodness. But have you heard about ‘slow reading’? According to recent research about reading habits, this back-to-basics approach to tackling texts is the hot new way for stressed out modern folk to tune out from digital noise. So, could it be coming to a bean bag near you?

What is the slow reading movement?

It might seem kind of obvious, but the slow reading movement is the antithesis of our current need for speed when it comes to texts of all kinds. The approach is not new (Wikipedia tells me the phrase was coined by Nietzshe in 1887!) but it’s trendy right now because of the crazy acceleration of our access to words. Where once we were forced to make our way through paragraphs, even pages, of words to find the key points of a news article, we now have the highlights handed to us via hyperlinks and ‘above the fold’ summaries. We skim, we glean, we grab at bits and pieces – but how often do we seriously read? Slow reading is partly about old fashioned appreciation of a good book, but it’s also about the ‘art’ of reading where one savours each sentence and digests a more complete message before moving onto the next headline.

What are the benefits of reading slowly?

The first benefit of slowing down your approach to reading is better comprehension. It heightens your ability to concentrate and – through reduced anxiety – makes you more open to new ideas and complex emotions or concepts. According to the Wall Street Journal, reading has major benefits for young and old. One study suggested that your first grade reading level is directly correlated to your 11th grade academic achievement levels. Another study showed that regular, challenging reading can help stave off memory loss in old age. Reading slowly amplifies these benefits by giving you time to properly engage with a text, appreciate words and improve your own vocabulary, and develop a more empathetic relationship with the world around you.  It also gives you a physical break from your daily run around and a mental break from other pressures, with potential health benefits akin to a ‘power nap’ or short meditation.

Sign me up! (No rush)

Luckily there’s no formal initiation ceremony or membership fee if you wish to get onboard the slow reading steam train. Advocates suggest taking 30-45 minutes of each day to go totally screen-free (or at least, disconnect your Kindle from any networks) so that reading can take place without pop up ads or Facebook status alerts getting in your way. Given that this is a book review blog, you may think I’m preaching to the converted as a lot of you possibly already do this when it comes to novels. But what about news? Magazines? Even messages from friends? Would you consider storing them up into one document that you could read at a suitably quiet time? And this is not about being anti-Internet or anti-ebook but about finding a way to better manage our interactions with these new technologies. Not to mention preserving our ability to read longer and more detailed texts – a skill that is, frankly, on the way out.

If you do wish to ‘formally’ associate yourself with the slow reading movement, there are apparently clubs springing up in cities across the world. Just bring a bottle of wine, pull up a chair, open your book and DON’T SPEAK to anyone for at least an hour. Sounds like bliss right?

Have you heard of the slow reading movement? Does it sound like something you need – or something you already do?

Linking up with Grace today for Flog Yo Blog Friday!

21 comments for “Is ‘slow reading’ a fast track to stress free living?

  1. October 2, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Fascinating! Especially that Nietzshe coined the term. I wonder what the need for it was then.

    • This Charming Mum
      October 2, 2014 at 11:57 am

      It’s interesting isn’t it! This is the quote from Wikipedia (and I confess I haven’t had time to research it further): The earliest reference to slow reading appears to be in Nietzsche’s (1887) preface to Daybreak: “It is not for nothing that one has been a philologist, perhaps one is a philologist still, that is to say, a teacher of slow reading.”[1] I guess an early insight into the importance of paying attention to words!

  2. September 30, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    My dose of slow reading is the bedtime or lunchtime story book. Like you, if I start reading for my own benefit, generally in bed, unless it’s really exciting I fall asleep, it is very relaxing!

    • This Charming Mum
      October 2, 2014 at 11:53 am

      I really do love to read quietly (and slowly!) when I get a chance, but the chances are few and far between. Bedtime stories are definitely a great way to remind myself – and the kids – to take things slower.

  3. September 28, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    I need this in my life. Having access to so much media is overwhelming. The irony is, if I switch off the laptop and try and read a book at night, 90% of the time I fall asleep!

    • This Charming Mum
      September 28, 2014 at 5:13 pm

      I’m the same. It has to be a REALLY good book these days to stop me from dozing off after a few pages. I’m trying hard though to allocate a bit more time to tech-free reading space – earlier in the day!

  4. September 27, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    Haven’t ever heard of it, but I think my mum is a natural at the craft. She is a huge, avid reader and has been all her life and she takes FOREVER to read a book. Which is all well and good until you are waiting for her to finish a book you’re desperate to start!! x

    • This Charming Mum
      September 28, 2014 at 2:59 pm

      Well that’s awesome that she takes her time over her books. I’m sure she’s all the better for it. It takes me ages to read a book right now too, but that’s due to constant interruptions and distractions! I think it’s a great idea to work on better focus.

  5. September 26, 2014 at 11:55 pm

    I read for around 40 minutes every week day on my dinner break, so I’ve been slow reading since before it was cool lol

    • This Charming Mum
      September 27, 2014 at 7:58 pm

      Yes, I believe they used to just call it ‘reading’, lol. That’s great that you consciously make the time for it. I try, but it’s more a case of snatching moments here and there right now.

  6. September 26, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    I need to read slowly to take in what I’m reading. I love to sit for an hour or more absorbed in a book whenever I have the time. It’s so easy to get distracted or feel the need to get to the end of the story, though. I need to train my mind away from those thoughts. 🙂

    • This Charming Mum
      September 27, 2014 at 7:58 pm

      Yes, me too. It’s all about training I think. Learning to block out the ‘busy head’ we all have and do one thing at a time!

  7. September 26, 2014 at 9:00 am

    That’s really interesting! I hadn’t heard of it. And now I have.
    Happy Friday!

    • This Charming Mum
      September 27, 2014 at 7:57 pm

      Yes, kind of obvious really, but sometimes it takes a ‘movement’ to remind us of the simple things!

  8. September 26, 2014 at 8:55 am

    I love reading and appreciate taking the time out to focus on a book. Does take a bit of effort to concentrate and not get distracted by the phone or kids though! ;p

    Ai @ Sakura Haruka

    • This Charming Mum
      September 27, 2014 at 7:57 pm

      I know, we just have our phones with us all the time now and they’re as intrusive as the kids sometimes! It’s good to sit down and focus when you can though isn’t it?

  9. Rebecca Stephens (@LighterMum)
    September 26, 2014 at 7:24 am

    I love real books. I also love reading lots and lots of articles on the internet:) I’ve found I do need to put my phone out of reach when reading a book though as I have a nasty habit of picking it up and checking my email!

    • This Charming Mum
      September 27, 2014 at 7:56 pm

      I’m the same with the phone. I find it really hard not to sneak a quick look at Facebook or my email, even while I’m doing other things. I’m trying to learn to control it!

  10. September 25, 2014 at 6:52 am

    Thank you for penning this. It’s given me much to think about. I agree with you – ‘slow reading’ while not the entire panacea, can definitely contribute to significantly reducing stress.

  11. kasperjbeaumont
    September 24, 2014 at 9:00 pm

    Sounds like a great idea

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