Reading Books: Expectation Vs Reality

What makes you pick up a book? Is it the cover? A recommendation? Or do you pick up a random one and give it a shot?

Books have become so much more than just the writing itself. Once you’ve started it, that’s all that matters, but before that there are so many other considerations that take place, whether we’re aware of it or not.

People always say, in marketing and advertising, that you often have to see something 7 times before you think about buying into it. Have you perhaps unconsciously bought a book because you’ve seen it so many times it just makes sense to give it a go? Or maybe you are more easily convinced, by simply a cover or a friend’s recommendation.

I’d like to share my thoughts on the book buying process and what leads me to eventually pick up a book – perhaps some of you can relate!


How Beautiful Is The Book?

If I said I’d never bought a book just because I loved the cover, I’d be lying…

There are some really well designed book covers out there, and the publishers know exactly what they’re doing – drawing in those who appreciate the visual and aesthetic side of reading. Because having something that reads well and looks good on your bookshelf is the best of both worlds, right? The problem is, they sometimes aren’t a very good read at all…

I’ve fallen into this trap many times before, and I still fall into it time and time again. The irony is that I never end up keeping the book even if it does have a beautiful cover, because what’s the point if I’m not going to read it again?

4 Star Rating? Let’s do it!

If you’re also an avid reader, you’ve likely got Goodreads, and you’ve also likely spend hours scrolling through, exploring books, sorting through ratings and reviews. I definitely have.

However, sometimes I place a little too much trust in Goodreads ratings. I see a rare 4 star rating and I think, this has to be a good book. And it is a good book, for majority of people. But sometimes it’s easy to forget that you won’t necessarily fall into that majority too!

There aren’t many 4 star books I’ve read and felt hugely disappointed, but I have read a couple and thought: I’m not sure I really understand what everyone else is seeing here. But that’s the beauty of art – we all see something different in it. If anything, we look for parts of ourselves within it. And it’s natural to not feel connected to every book, in the same way that we wouldn’t feel connected to every person we meet either.

“You HAVE To Read This”

We’ve all had the classic recommendation from a friend or family member, or maybe even from a stranger, where they claim they have the perfect book for you. Do you believe them? Can you trust their book taste? Is it worth the shot or will it just lead to an awkward conversation of “It was good, buuuut…”

I never know whether to follow up on recommendations, so often I head back to good old Goodreads and see what everyone else is saying about it too. The more opinions, the better, right?

However, I think every now and again it’s good to step outside of your comfort zone and try a completely different book to your usual read. I can’t say I’ve had much success with this yet (*cough cough* horror that wasn’t scary *cough cough* confusing sci-fi that made no sense). But, I’m still willing to give it a shot.

Do you relate to any of the above?

Why do you think the reality of a book is often so different to the initial expectation?

I’d love to know what you think below.


5 New Habits That Genuinely Changed My Life!

Surely it can’t only be me who is wondering where this year has gone? We’re somehow only 3 months away from 2021!

Looking back on this year, it’s been an unusual one for us all, but this post is not going to be focusing on all of that – instead, I’ll be sharing 5 new habits I started doing this year that have genuinely had a huge positive impact on my life. (Feel free to share yours in the comments below too!)

Gratitude Journalling

When I was younger, I used to write lots of diaries. Sometimes I find them in the depths of my cupboard and cringe at all the things I used to say, but journalling is always something that has been cathartic for me. It’s a release.

However, this year I started journalling with a different approach in mind. Instead of writing down everything I was feeling (positives, negatives, the lot), I only wrote down what went well. Every night I do this same routine, writing down 3 things that went well, and reframing one negative situation into a positive. As much as writing a diary is cathartic, journalling with positive words helps reinforce that positivity, rather than dwell on bad events. I am convinced it has helped me stay positive and strong, even through difficult moments, and I’m excited to look back on it in December and see all the amazing things that happened this year!

Phone on Airplane Mode Before Bed

This is a very specific habit I’ve started this year but one that has helped my sleep hugely. I’ve always been a classic overthinker, especially at night, but I never really realised until this year how much blue light, from phone and TV screens, was exacerbating this.

My routine is to now put my phone on airplane mode at least an hour before bed, giving me time to really think about my day, how I’m feeling, and read a good book. I think in a world full of so much noise, we often drown ourselves out. This is my moment to try and reclaim that back.

Reframing Negative Thoughts

I feel like this is one topic I’ve covered in a lot of my blog posts this year, and there’s a reason for that! It’s because it’s the most effective way to get out of a negative slump.

None of us have positive brains 24/7 – that is just unrealistic. However, we can try to change those negative thoughts when they start creeping in. We can do this by rationalising any unnecessary thoughts or changing our focus onto something else. It’s not easy, and I still have moments where I struggle with it, but once you know it’s achievable, it really can help with the most difficult of situations.

Writing a To-Do List

Not only is writing lists super productive (and fun – if you’re like me), but it is genuinely the best way to stay on top of everything that needs to be done. Since the beginning of this year, even on the days when I was in lockdown and had nothing scheduled, I would write a list of what I was going to do that day. And it helped me stay sane. It gave me a purpose.

Lists don’t have to be boring. Write with a colourful pen. Buy yourself a beautiful notebook. Jot down fun things you want to do that day, like watching your favourite show or seeing a friend. A list can be full of anything you want it to be. It’s a nice reminder that you have autonomy in the world.

Reading Before Bed

I’ve always been an avid reader – ever since I was a child. Entering new worlds and understanding new perspectives has always been interesting to me. However, on the road of education, it’s unsurprising that I lost my passion for reading a bit.

It was only at the start of this year that I started reading regularly again. Books for fun weren’t just for the holidays, but something I could read everyday. And the way I managed to do this was by reading before bed.

It’s funny looking back, because in hindsight it’s so obvious, but at the time, I didn’t realise that all this TV I was watching was eating up my reading time. Now, I do both, and I love having the variety. I’m finally making my way through my overflowing bookcase!

Have you taken up a new habit that has genuinely changed your life?

I’d love to know – please share in the comments below!


You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

Weekly Wellbeing Challenge: Week 18

The challenge for this week was… Read Before Bed!

Here is a small overview of how I got on with the challenge.

[and don’t forget, it’s not too late to sign up to my newsletter if you haven’t already!]

Reading before bed is something I started doing at the beginning of 2020. Since university (or even A levels), I lost my love of reading for fun, because I was so focused on reading for educational purposes. Now that I’ve graduated (and we’ve been in lockdown), I’ve had more time to read than ever and I’ve been really enjoying it!

Ever since I started reading before bed, my sleep has improved hugely. I find it difficult to switch off my mind at night, so putting away my phone (and any screens with blue lights) and focusing on a book helps me wind down.

I noticed that the one night I didn’t read before bed this week, it took me a lot longer to fall asleep. It’s become such a habit that I rely on it a lot to help me feel sleepy, and it’s become so ingrained in my routine that even if I skip one night I really miss it!

I think there’s so much conflicting advice on how to sleep better – some people say that doing a passive task (such as watching TV) is better than doing an active task (reading), whereas I’ve found it to be the opposite with me. Perhaps by doing an active task it tires my brain out quicker.

Either way, I find it very interesting how the brain can be affected so hugely by small changes to everyday routines.

What change have you recently made to your routine? What was the effect?

5 Ways to Focus More When Reading a Book

I’ve seen a lot of comments going around of people struggling to focus on reading, particularly at the moment, during lockdown. I remember, during the times of A levels and the beginning of university, I struggled with reading too. It actually induced a lot of anxiety for me and I felt so restless I couldn’t focus for the life of me!

I wish I had someone to give me some useful tips in those times, so now that I have a little more insight, and have overcome these struggles, I thought I would share some advice.

 

 

Practice sitting still

I think one of the main reasons why it may be difficult to read is because most of us are just not used to sitting still! Most of the times we are rushing about our daily lives, constantly on the go, that sitting still is completely foreign to us.

And now, we are perhaps sitting still more, due to lockdown, but at the same time we’re not. Reading a book actually requires all of your body to be completely still (apart from turning the page), whereas if you compare that to working or eating or using your phone, you are moving your hands or typing or doing something at the very least. Watching TV can also be a good way of sitting still, but often you fidget without really realising it. 

Take a few minutes out of your day to just sit, and be, and breathe. 

 

Start small and make gradual progress

Suddenly becoming a master at reading is not going to happen overnight. You can’t learn a musical instrument that quickly, or learn how to play a sport, so don’t put that kind of pressure on your reading skills!

If you’re struggling with reading (even if you used to always be fine), start at the very beginning again. There is no shame in going back and reading for a mere five minutes and working your way up from there. 

Start with 5 minutes, increase it to 10 minutes when you feel comfortable, and keep going.

 

Use your phone less

Phone? What does that have to do with reading?

Scrolling through your phone, flicking between apps and typing super fast is draining your attention span – a lot!! You are so used to picking up information at a fast speed, that when it comes to reading a seven hour book, where you can’t get to the end of the story in two minutes (like a news article), you easily lose concentrate. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.

To reign in your impatience, cut out a portion of your phone consumption and try reading instead. You will be irritable at first, but stick with it. And next time you read an article or watch a video, try not to skim ahead to the end (as hard as it is!) because it is teaching your brain to take shortcuts. And, as I firmly believe, skipping to the end of a book is never okay… 

 

Read before bed

From personal experience, this is the method I used to get back into reading. I think that, in the day, it’s easy to get consumed with other tasks and sometimes it’s hard to find time to set aside to read, and when you do, distractions easily fall into place. No wonder anxiety hits. 

At night, just before you go to bed, there is nowhere you have to be. It is your time. So you are less likely to feel the pressure of reading.

Turn off your phone or put it on silent mode and just sit down with a good book. If you’re tired, just read for 5 minutes. It doesn’t matter. It’s just a bit of quiet time, and I find it’s a great way to drown out nighttime overthinking and lull me to sleep, without the blue light of phone screens and TV. 

 

Reduce your overall anxiety/stress

I believe that the overall anxiety/stress in my life was what made reading particularly difficult for me in the past. And I’m sure, due to the current pandemic, that a lot of people are feeling more anxious than normal, which is having an effect on the ability to read.

A while ago, I shared my own goals for reducing stress/anxiety and I’ve found that they’ve helped hugely in my own journey of self-development. You can check out that post here. And maybe try one or two of them yourself!

 

 

I hope these tips will be useful for anyone who wants to get back into reading, but is struggling to find a routine or overcome restlessness. 

Everything takes practice, so go easy on yourself.

You will get there in the end.

 

 

You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

Goodreads: mymindspeaksaloud

 

 

 

RESULTS: What Book I’m Reading in May

A few days ago, I asked you all to vote for what book I should read in May.

I loved hearing all your votes! It was really interesting to see what titles grabbed your attention – it proves that book titles really can make a difference.

Here are the results – votes gathered from blog comments, Instagram and friends/family.

WINNER: The Possession of Mr Cave – 8 votes

RUNNER-UP: Everything I know About Love – 6 votes

Tuesdays with Morrie – 3 votes

When Things Fall Apart, Universal Love, and After You’d Gone – 1 vote each

Thank you to everyone who took part! I have started reading The Possession of Mr Cave already, and will most likely fit in Everything I Know About Love and maybe even Tuesdays with Morrie this month as well.

What are you reading at the moment?

Let me know in the comments!

Weekly Wellbeing Challenge: Week 3

The challenge for this week was: Mindful Reading!

2020 has been my year of getting back into reading for fun and it has gone so much better than expected! Not only do I have a lot more time to read, now that we’re in lockdown, but I’ve created a routine where I read before I go to bed each night. It helps calm my mind and I always look forward to it!

For this challenge, I decided to focus on increasing my reading time by reading during the day too. Some days I sat out in the sun which was really lovely! Other days I sat in the conservatory with the fresh air flowing through the patio doors.

I decided to try something I’ve never tried before – having a “day” book and an “evening” book. This week, I read a non fiction novel in the day and a thriller in the evening, which made things more atmospheric!

I’m one of those people who never normally reads two books at once (unless it’s for studying purposes). I was having this discussion with one of my friends who is also really into books, and she said the same! We agreed that if we were reading two books at once, we’d end up ditching one of them and just focusing solely on the other!

What I found out this week was that if I choose books that are completely polar opposites, such as a non fiction, self-help book that is written in a more scientific way, and then a thriller novel that is completely fictional with made up characters, then my brain doesn’t get confused. I can easily switch between the books and I don’t need to remind myself what details are from which world and so on (since the non fiction is in the real world, after all!)

I can’t say I’ll be following this two-book rule forever – in fact, I’ve now finished one of the books so I’m back to one again! It was an interesting experiment though, and it’s a good way of consuming multiple types of books in a daily routine.

How did you get on with the Weekly Wellbeing Challenge this week?

Let me know in the comments!

And if you’d like to join the Weekly Wellbeing Challenge (an email newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday!), you can sign up here.

5 Things I’m Grateful For This January (2020)

Here’s my monthly post on my gratitude for January!

 

Journalling

For the new year, I decided that I wanted to take up a consistent journalling habit. I was inspired by Dr Chatterjee’s book Feel Better 5 where he gave examples of good ways to journal at the end of the day. So now, as I’m winding down for bed, I get out my journal and write down 3 things that went well that day (something I enjoyed, something I’m grateful for, anything), as well as reframing a moment that I didn’t particularly like, explaining how it made me feel, how I can approach it next time and ultimately forgiving myself for it. For example, using my phone too much throughout the day, or not speaking up for myself. Not only will this help me actually put my stack of notebooks to good use (I’m a bit of a hoarder), but a lot of the time it drowns out the overthinking noise in my head and reminds me of the good parts of the day, so I can go to sleep in peace.

 

Books

One of my goals for this year is to read more books for pleasure, not just those for my degree. I’ve already read 2 books so far which is really good going for me, and it’s made me realise how much I appreciate the books that I have, the writers who write them, and my ability to read. I know for a fact that education has thrown my love of books all over the place, but this month I’ve reunited with that feeling. I’ve started a new bedtime routine where, after I have journalled, I read a book of my choice before I go to sleep, and I think it’s really helped to spark my enjoyment again, as well as improving my sleep.

 

Embracing Stillness and Rest

I’ve always been a bit of a typical introvert in that I love spending time alone to pursue my hobbies, such as reading, writing, blogging, etc. but I equally love being busy and doing things. I feel like this month I’ve just had a lot more space to breathe and I think that’s because I’ve taken more of a chilled out approach to things. I’ve taken the time I need to just sit and contemplate things and not feel guilty for resting. I find it so much easier now to say “no” to things I don’t want to go to, embracing the fact that sometimes I just want to stay home and chill and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It means that I have more energy for the things I do want to go to.

 

Playing Music

Since it’s nearing the last four months of my time at university, it got me thinking a lot about the societies and clubs I do here and how I will actually miss them a lot when I leave. One of these is playing the clarinet in Big Band. Although I don’t practice much on my own, I really enjoy playing as a group and creating music that others can listen to and enjoy. This month Big Band released a CD that we recorded last year and we had an album launch at the uni bar where we played some of the pieces and sold the CD’s. I listened to the CD when I got home and it just made me really happy and proud that I could be a part of something so great. It makes me really grateful that my parents encouraged me to start music lessons, particularly my Dad since he is musical too. I think it’s pretty cool that I can play instruments and I don’t remind myself of that enough.

 

Binaural Beats

This is something that I only started experimenting with during the latter half of this month, but wow has it changed a lot in my life. For those of you who don’t know, binaural beats, in summary, is relaxing music that is considered sound-wave therapy – you can find music that is based on different frequencies and waves, such as alpha, beta, theta, etc. Each type of wave has different benefits, but most of them promote relaxation, decrease stress/anxiety and in some cases pain. I found a theta wave video on YouTube for brain fog, since that is something I have struggled with for a year now, and I was absolutely amazed when, even after the first couple listens, my brain fog had just disappeared. I feel like the music is so relaxing, and makes my body feel so heavy and at peace, that it dissipates any underlying stress that is in my body, which a lot of the time I don’t even realise is there. I haven’t felt so present and aware of my surroundings in a long time, and for that I am incredibly grateful to binaural beats. I’m not sure if this is something that will work long-term, but I’m going to continue using it and see what happens. For now, it is a very reassuring sign of hope.

[If anyone wants me to send the video or share any more details about this, drop me a message in the comments or through social media – links below]

 

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What are you grateful for this month?

Let me know in the comments!

You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

6 Ways to Switch Up the Way You Study (check out my first article!!)

I am super excited because my first article for the Graduate Recruitment Bureau’s blog was published today!! It’s not often I connect this blog to my life outside of the written world, but I feel like my confidence has grown so much since starting this blog that I’m no longer afraid for you guys to see the real me behind the page (or at least some of it).

The link to the article I’ve written is below and I really hope that it is useful for any of you who are also studying at university. Please let me know your thoughts 🙂

https://www.grb.uk.com/blog/6-ways-to-switch-up-the-way-you-study

 

My Favourite Mental Health Books

Today is World Book Day, but it is also University Mental Health Day. Since I am a huge lover of reading and have struggled a lot with my mental health whilst at university, this day is really important to me. Therefore, what better to do than list some of my favourite mental health books?

1. Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig Image result for reasons to stay alive

I know what you’re thinking, I’m talking about Matt Haig again, but his books have been really helpful to me over the past couple of years. He gives an account of his struggle with mental health with no filter and that’s what I love about it. He doesn’t make it seem cool or sugarcoat it – it is his raw feelings in book form and I really admire that. For people who struggle with anxiety and/or depression, this may be really useful to you. Read my book review here.

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2. Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

If you thought I’d just stop at one of Matt Haig’s books, you’d be very wrong. Whilst this one also tackles mental health, it is vaster in its approach to technology and social media. These are things that have become second nature to us and Haig discusses how this affects our minds. I think anyone who finds themselves even mildly attached to the internet can relate to this book. Read my book review here.

3. How to Survive the End of the World by Aaron GilliesImage result for how to survive the end of the world

Technically I haven’t actually finished this book yet, but I’m in the process of reading it, so that counts, right? This book focuses on topics similar to Matt Haig, but has more of a focus on anxiety. I really like the humour that Gillies brings to this book and the informal way it is written. It is split into categories, such as “My anxious brain vs the morning” and “My anxious brain vs socialising” which makes it really easy to pick out the parts as and when you need them. This one doesn’t have a book review yet (sorry).

4. Your journal

So I got to number four and realised that I haven’t actually read as many mental health books as I thought. Go me. However, having your own notebook and jotting down your thoughts is just as much a mental health book as any. It’s a way to release tension, to rationalise your thoughts, and you don’t even have to read it. Sometimes writing out your inner thoughts can be scary because you don’t know what’s lurking there, but it is unbelievably rewarding. Trust me.

 

I really hope this list was somewhat helpful, despite my slight downfall at the end with my lack of ideas. Today is a day about sharing books and caring for others, and I think that’s the perfect day.

can it be said…? [flash-fiction]

sometimes I don’t feel a part of anything. not just people or groups or conversations, but the world. it’s a weird feeling to be confused by my own emotions; to wonder why I don’t feel just quite right. or why I have the urge to release a flood of emotion. suddenly, I want to hide away from everything. my mind is out there somewhere floating around. it’s certainly not inside my head. can it be said that I exist in parts?