“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader”, says Margaret Fuller, expressing how the best leaders are also avid readers. Psychology Programs in India and across the world assessed how the current coronavirus lockdown affected the habit of reading and there were some interesting points to note from these findings.  Many readers have exclaimed at the odd notion of not being able to get into or go through a book with as much comfort as they used to in the pre-lockdown era.

The answer to this, according to psychologists, lies in the link between reading and mental health.

Avid readers across the world have been stumped by how their reading capacity may have diminished over the past few months.  However, it is so hard to channel your focus into the intricacies of diving into a book when you are stressed out. Stress and anxiety shape up to have a major role in your ability to consume the words on a piece of paper. The reasons stress could be multi-fold like conflicts at home, school, with work colleagues etc and these stresses are the ones which end up contributing to major anxiety issues. These issues can crop up on people literally and figuratively paralyzing them from performing even the most basic of tasks.

“The focus required to pick up and start reading and stay the course of the narrative outlined in a book is hindered by the body’s fight and flight response,”  says Alyssa Williamson. The body is no longer accepting the fact that you are safe, however much you might cognitively understand it. Your body refuses to make you feel safe when anxiety hits you and it can be an impairing factor for the inability to consume those pages like you used to.

To be fair, this response is warranted—the pandemic poses a real, tangible threat, and people are doing whatever they can to cope. Sometimes that means trying to help their brains passively think about something else for a while.

The popularity of on-demand content on digital platforms and television has reduced the time people spend on reading. And as reading becomes difficult during a pandemic, the temptation to watch a film or series online increases. “There is a tendency to consume media such as shows on digital platforms because they are more passive and you don’t have to engage your brain in the same way you do when you read,” explains an expert.

Reading has to be and can be therapeutic because it is supposed to engage your brain in a more active way. The concept of practice of bibliography

One more thing that can induce stress is seeing your friends boast about their 50th book read this year and that can turn a fun-filled activity into a stress and anxiety-inducing one.

Best Psychology Colleges in India and across the world have also exclaimed that pursuing something just for the sake of showcasing your ability will hardly bear any fruitful results. This essentially means stop reading so that you can boast about reading x amount of books and start reading because you like it. Do it for yourself, and nobody else!

Finding the right book might also prove challenging in coronavirus lockdown time simply because a tale of dark overtones might be counterproductive in these times. During a pandemic, a non-fiction book about the collapsing economy, for instance, could induce further anxiety. Moving towards fiction during this time is a straightforward method to keep your reading habit going. “Even history books that transport you to a different era could be a good way to keep anxiety at bay,” says the store manager at independent bookstore The Book Shop in New Delhi’s Jor Bagh.

Building a routine around your reading schedule might add some much-needed flavour and inject life into your reading session. Like a warm cup of tea and some snacks on your balcony view. Something as simple as the activity of cleaning up your room perhaps. Anything that makes you want to look forward to the activity of reading, a set of activities which get you in the ultra focus mode to dive into the pages of the book is generally a great practice.

A book club is a great way to hold yourself accountable to a reading discipline and find your way back to books. Book clubs can help you get all the psychological perks of reading, plus a powerful sense of community. “These community clubs also help to deal with urban loneliness, and the discourses and discussion may even help develop critical thinking,” says an expert.

So these are a few tips to jog your reading muscle memory and make sure you do not give up reading about the things that are still hopeful in challenging times.