Have you made yours? It’s down to the wire now with mere hours left. This year is different though, so maybe our resolutions should be different too. Yes there will probably still be the requisite “lose weight,” “eat healthier,” “exercise more,” and “worry less,” vows, but how about some unique goals to greet a new year that was preceded by the most unique of years.
LOL and sad but true but how about joining me and “Happiness Project” author and all things happy guru Gretchen Rubin in a fun and different New Year’s resolution idea for 2021 that can actually boost our happiness? It’s called #Read21in21 and promotes reading for 21 minutes every day in 2021. Sign me up!
None of us could go much further than our homes this year but we can go all kinds of places just by getting lost in a book. An added bonus is that, in addition to being entertained, we can learn so much when we read, especially if doing so becomes a habit…a good habit.
As Rubin says, if we have habits that are good for us, we’re far more likely to be happier…hence our constant push to improve our habits of healthy living and healthy eating. And, research shows we should by all means add reading to that list, as reading is good for us. In fact, reading is the most effective way to overcome stress, beating out both listening to music or taking a walk. It also improves mental health, prevents cognitive and memory decline, makes us more empathetic, increases imagination and vocabulary, and enhances acceptance during uncertainty…something we all need more of right now right? If you’re a nighttime reader, it can also improve healthy sleep patterns and increase restful sleep.
Still need convincing? Okay, then consider the fact that if you sign on to read for 21 minutes every day for 365 days it adds up to 7,665 minutes or almost 128 hours of reading. That sounds like a lot of reading and a lot of books, but when you think about it, I bet you spend way more than 21 minutes online, on your phone, on social media, or watching TV every day. How about replacing even just one of those with a book for 21 minutes?
Every Christmas I’m reminded of that fabulous tradition in Iceland and can’t help but wonder if it could happen in the U.S. Sadly, we’d probably all argue about what to read. Insert sad emoji here.
But, even though we may not have done this for Christmas Eve, we can take the idea into the new year. Give books for gifts this year and ask for them for birthdays. If you’re not in a book club, consider joining one..even a virtual one… and make it a habit to visit local book stores and buy from them as often as possible. If your local library is open, get a library card. Have I mentioned that a dream of mine is to have a library card from the New York Public Library?
If you are considering signing on to #Read21in21, Rubin has some encouraging reminders to help you, including:
- Designate and rearrange a space to create a more inviting area for reading. I did this last year just for prayer and meditation daily readings and it helped immensely.
- Improve reading lighting with a good lamp or a light that clips onto your book for reading in bed.
- Log the books (make a list!) you want to read and maybe even those you’ve read to revisit at the end of the year.
- Upgrade your earbuds and/or tablet if you read online.
- Invite friends and family to join you in your reading mission and share and borrow books with them.
- Introduce this challenge to your book club and celebrate everyone’s successes at year’s end.
In order to help form and strengthen the habit of reading, pay attention to what books you like. I tend to prefer non-fiction and novels and am not a sci-fi or mystery reader. The odds of succeeding at reading 21 minutes every day are much higher if I read what I like so I’m sticking to genres and topics that are my faves. As much as I love reading, this is the reason book clubs are a bit of a challenge for me…I tend to not read a pick I wouldn’t well, pick. On the flip-side however, reading something out of your comfort zone might be interesting and informative and might even surprise you. It’s your reading challenge and your call. No one gets to tell you what to read!
Another option if you’re out of book ideas (which I’m never not!) is to consider books on subject areas you have a personal interest in. Reading a book on something you already know you like opens the subject up in a whole new way. If you enjoy gardening, maybe read about the gardens Monet painted. I love restaurants and one of my favorite books is “Garlic and Sapphires” by Ruth Reichl, former food critic and editor of Gourmet magazine. Maybe you loved a certain movie, find the book it was based on and read it. Are you a new parent or starting a new job? Read up on parenting and the industry you’re in. Another fun idea is to revist a book you remember from high school or college. On my list for 2021 is t re-read “Go Ask Alice,” which I remember heavily impacting me in high school.
Always keep in mind that what we read impacts us…it can inspire us, shape our thoughts, and even help us reach our potentials…but it can also negatively affect us if we’re not careful. Choose your books wisely.
Most importantly, make it fun and don’t stress about it. I’m a big proponent that unless you are reading for a class, if you start a book and don’t like it…stop reading it! There’s nothing worse than feeling like that book you looked forward to diving into feels like an assignment. I’m also a proponent of real books, but if you like audio-books or reading on a device, they count! So does re-reading a book you’ve previously read and reading to your kids. Spiritual reading also counts. Reading the bible, daily meditations, and books related to spirituality and self-help may be the best books you can read in these uncertain times.
Okay, so say you’re not loving the idea of reading for 21 minutes every day. I get it. It’s not for everyone. But, maybe you can alter the idea to fit you and your one beautiful life. Maybe exercise for 21 minutes every day. Maybe do a hobby like paint or a jigsaw puzzle every day. Vow to visit 21 new restaurants (if they are open!) in 2021. The list is endless and I’d love to hear your ideas.
At the beginning of each new year we are excited for a fresh start and we reflect and long for renewal and recharging. In 2021, this idea is on steroids. But maybe you don’t want to make a reading resolution…or any resolution at all. That’s okay and Rubin offers the option of writing your “21 for 2021.” And no, it’s not scary and doesn’t need to be extremely challenging. Here are some ideas:
Instead of a list of the standard resolutions of what you hope to do or accomplish, list things you want to stop doing. Stop worrying. Stop overeating. Stop criticizing. Yes, I know this goes against the popular thought that you’re more likely to succeed at positively-worded goals, but I kinda like this idea.
Keep your list focused on one area of your life such as your family, your free time, or your work rather than your entire world and the world as a whole. Instead of “be more helpful,” try “help my co-worker with challenging projects.” Rather than “teach my kids to pray,” aim to “pray more with my kids.”
Go in on a list with a family member or friend. Teamwork is a great motivator!
Make a list of only things that are fun!
Whatever you choose to do, make it doable and watch how you word it. As Rubin writes, would you rather “practice” piano or “play the piano?” “Turn off the TV and lights earlier” or “Get more restful sleep?” “Don’t eat sweets” or “Reserve sweets for one day a week?” It’s all about how we word it and how we go about it.
2020 was indeed one for the books and one filled with uncertainty and division. It’s worth celebrating the end of though and by starting 2021 with something you can actually control is a way to start it off right. Pick your passion and book it.