I find books to be an excellent substitute for life skills in many situations. Here are a few bookish life hacks that may come in handy.
1. Making tough decisions
Operating on the What Would The Doctor Do principle is all very well, but sometimes you need more concrete guidance. For those times when you need a little input from the universe, and you’re not sure where to turn, try this:
Grab the book nearest you, or the book you’re currently reading. Close your eyes, think about your question, and open the book at random (you may have to remove bookmarks beforehand, or you’ll end up automatically opening it to the marked page). Read whatever page you land on, and search for meaning relevant to your dilemma.
This form of divination is called bibliomancy, and has been used for centuries. Historically, people have often used sacred books such as the Bible, the Qur’an, or the Vedas. If you’re religious, you could go that route, or you could choose a book that’s particularly meaningful to you (e.g. your favorite Harry Potter book).
You don’t have to believe in divination to use this technique. Just think of it as an amusing method of tricking yourself into thinking about the problem in a new way.
2. Reducing stress
According to a 2009 study, reading silently for 10 minutes can reduce your stress levels by up to 68%. Reading was found to be a more effective stress reliever than listening to music, taking a walk, or even having a cup of tea. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, trapped, or panicked, try this:
Stop what you’re doing and read. Just pick up whatever book you have going, and dive into it. I guarantee that after spending ten minutes being Harry Potter or Lizzie Bennet, you will feel calmer.
Reading for a few minutes gives your brain a chance to follow a different pathway, and hopefully “reset” itself. I can’t count the number of times a half hour of reading has helped me gain new perspective on what seemed like a hopeless situation.
Whether or not you feel like you have time for pleasure reading, making time for light reading will help you deal with everything else on your plate. Even if you read constantly for school or work (I’ve been there), give yourself permission to read something completely frivolous too. You’ll thank me later
3. Fighting insomnia
If you have trouble turning your brain off at night, try this:
Find the audiobook version of a book you find interesting but not riveting, or a favorite book you love to read again and again. It can’t be too exciting, or it’ll keep you awake, but it must be interesting enough to keep your mind occupied. I love children’s books for this purpose, or collections of folk and fairy tales. For example, right now I’m working my way through the Nancy Drew series as my bedtime listening books.
Cuddle up in bed with your smartphone or mp3 player, turn out the lights, and listen to your chosen audiobook with your eyes closed. Many audiobook players have an automatic turn-off option, and can be set up to stop playing after a certain time period. I usually set Overdrive to turn off after half an hour, and I’m often asleep long before the book stops playing.
Reading physical books in bed is great, but often results in staying up later to finish the book, rather than dozing off. Besides, that extra movement necessary to reach out and turn off the bedside lamp tends to wake me up and I have to start over again. Listening to audiobooks, on the other hand, my eyes are already closed and I just slip naturally into sleep. This has made a huge difference in the amount of rest I get, and is also great for getting back to sleep after waking up in the wee hours.
The older I get, the more I find that reading is an essential survival skill! I’m not sure what that says about my adulting ability in general, but so be it. Have you tried any of these things? Do you have your own reading-related life hacks you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments!