Cultivating a Habit of Reading (Bathtub Optional)

(photo via photolizer.com)

Books and water don’t typically go together, but for me it’s a match made in solitude.

With my ADHD, reading for uninterrupted periods of time can be both frustrating and frightening all at once. Where I used to sit for hours with a book open in my lap, I now spend a lot more time feeling guilty for how my disorder impacts my reading life. So, finding a place that can cut me off from most other forms of stimuli (my phone, Netflix, video games), is difficult and a blessing when I do.

One of those places happens to be the bathtub, a spot that does what any good reading spot does.

Find Your Calm

One of the most important things when working on cultivating a habit of reading is to seek out times when you feel calm and safe. Trying to read when you’re upset or out of it can put extra pressure on you. And when you live with a disorder like ADHD, that kind of pressure can worsen symptoms that hinder a person’s ability to read or fully enjoy reading. Symptoms like:

  • Distraction
  • Lack of emotional impulse control
  • Sense of acute frustration and guilt

For some, reading is a way to escape some of those negative feelings, but for many others, it can foster those same feelings. So finding a place or time that provokes a sense of calm and relaxation can be key to having a rewarding reading session. For me, a hot bath helps soothe my negative symptoms and any other issues that cloud my ability to focus on reading.

Find Your Time

Even if it’s only a few minutes, any amount of time spent reading when you want to do so is time well spent. When you want to read and feel like you’re wasting limited time it can make you shut down entirely. Then you feel like you can’t do anything at all except feel guilty about not doing anything. And the vicious cycle goes on and on, biting its own tail.

Some people say that you just have “make yourself” do it, and then you’ll be fine. But it’s not that easy for everyone, and ignoring that fact does nothing for the people who want to read and feel huge amounts of shame when they can’t.

One way to explain that inability to make yourself do something is with the term Executive Function Disorder, a disorder that boils down to wanting to do something but being unable to do that thing. For instance, most of my nights and mornings involve me wanting to go to bed or get up, knowing what I need to do, and then struggling to actually do those things for long periods of time. It all seems like too many steps that, when my brain processes them, overwhelm me to the point where I just sit there in silence, berating myself for not doing what I need to do.

The steps with reading are decidedly fewer than those required to get me into bed, but they can still put me off of the task. So I’ve found a way to kind of trick myself into going through with it. Preparing a hot bath is easy for me because my brain has connected the steps to preparing it with a sense of happiness and peace, so getting that set up is no problem. And once I’m in the bath, I really only have option for occupying my time: to read. So now I’m calm and isolated and left with a book that I simply have to open and read. And since I’ve done this enough times, reading is a reflex once I’m in the water.

For a lot of us book-lovers, reading can be one of the most rewarding and frustrating things we do. And for even more of us, it’s just one more thing that has to be maneuvered so we can do the other things that cause us frustration. So, by navigating certain avenues surrounding the act of reading, we can move toward cultivating a more rewarding and consistent habit of reading.

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