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The Challenge

Spend thirty minutes before bed engaged with a book, instead of mindlessly scrolling through ‘content.’ Content, as I like to call it, is just empty media. I can’t even categorize it as Instagram posts, because I often move from an Instagram page, to reading captions, to the person’s blog. To me it’s empty as oftentimes I’m not even paying attention or absorbing any information at all. Immersing myself in this flow of content is just a way to disengage and fill my mind with meaningless information to block out any external stressors.

My mother scolds me for spending too much time on my phone. I can hear her rhetorically ask, “To whom are you even talking to?” This question made me rethink the way I use my smartphone. I don’t put high urgency in replying to the array of low priority messages I get in a day. Meaning, my habit of choosing to ignore ‘real-life’ has me scrolling through the many Instagrams and blogs I follow in a given day.

I made the decision to read for thirty minutes before bed in order to replace my mindless habit with a more fulfilling and stimulating endeavor. Reading provides a similar (but, healthy) escape from reality and daily stress while also engaging your imagination. While doing research for this challenge, I found out that 25% of Americans have not read a single book in the previous year!!! With that in mind, I decided to be part of the other 75% and dive right into a new book…

The Results

I decided on A Visit From the Goon Squad a 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning work of fiction by American author Jennifer Egan. The book is a set of thirteen interrelated stories with a large cast of characters all connected to two main characters. The structure of short stories seemed perfect for my endeavor – I’d could finish one a night!

This didn’t go as planned, however. I found myself asleep before I even got halfway through the story. And when I fell asleep, I stayed asleep. This exercise resulted in the best sleep I’ve had in years. Honestly, I’d wake up in the morning with the book over my face. (I usually sleep with a pillow over my head to block incoming morning light, but I guess a book also does the trick.)

To be perfectly frank, this wasn’t much of a challenge as much as it was shifting around an already enjoyed activity. That being said, I did find myself looking to my phone out of habit. This did go away after a night or two though. The book was so intriguing and had its fair share of cliffhangers to the point that I found myself itching to know what was next. I even dreamt up some alternative endings about the fate of the character that I had last read about.

The Discussion

I pose this challenge to you: pick up a good book that you know you’ll enjoy and do something good for your brain. It will thank you!

Reading before bed is proven to combat insomnia and reduce stress levels. A 2009 study from researchers at University of Sussex showed that six minutes of reading reduces stress by 68% (more relaxing than either music or a cup of tea), thus clearing the mind and readying the body for sleep. Reading not only helps you sleep better, but enables you to become a better you: more creative; concentrate better; become more empathetic. It even increases cultural knowledge (without an expensive plane flight).


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