5 Ways to Troubleshoot Distracted Reading
If you have celiac disease, you may know what nutritional-deficiency can do to your attention span. Hangry pre-gluten-free recovery is a description that goes beyond bloody ticked and aching gut pangs. For me, and for rather a lot of celiacs, a symptom of the disease is brain fog. Hyper-activity or attention-deficit. High distraction.
But what happens when the gut heals? You may still have a habit. I became so used to distraction and hunger, even when my body settled, my mind hopped. It was like a muscle memory. It was used to having no attention, so I still sometimes rattle like a rat on a hamster wheel.
But celiac disease or not, we all may may be The Distracted Post-Modern Reader.
It isn't easy getting slow, or falling into the silence of a page -- or 5, or 10 -- these days. Shoot, for a whole book, we need to fall into more than triple that page count.
With a few troubleshooting strategies, practice some new habits: attention, and presence. Maybe even get the joy of self-forgetful perusal back without the pain of force-feeding.
- The Mobile Read (also known as "The Walking Read")
I find that when my mind can't follow, it sometimes settles and focuses if my feet can. This past week, I took a tome on my regular walk around the lake in Brighton. Even simply standing for a while helped.
If you also have a child who can't get his head into a book, let him pace. We pace ourselves literally by pacing, and sometimes a lack of attention isn't too little attention, but a hyper-aware attention, which needs its-too-much-energy expended a little kinetically before it settles down.
2. The Loud Read
Start by reading aloud. Slowly.
When you taste words, and hear words, your brain gets present. A heaping part of losing attention is being unable to be present. So settle into reading first by settling into the sensory experience of the words. The words can be overlooked even while you're looking at them by a mind that just sees -- words visually are just abstract symbols. Words spoken and heard are a full sensory experience.
Read the first page, or two, or three out loud. Slowly. See if it doesn't get your attention hopping -- and back home to the experience of the language.
3. The Distracted Read
This may be for if you do truly experience symptoms of classic ADD/ADHD. I find it helps me tremendously.
Conversation, boring background lectures, white noise.
Silence can give me -- and many others I know -- over-focus. I can't focus because I'm trying too hard. I have too much attention, and it's racing past the page to the next twenty, or to dinner, or to the stifling afternoon quiet -- whatever it is, it's bored distracted, and too attentive. I put on dull youtube tutorials, or the child-safety-training I use for camp counseling, and voila, my ears are full, and my attention is free.
Or my ears are full of ignoring something dull. It seems to help.
4. The Listening Read
You may just want to listen for a while. If you can't attend to a page, you may not be a visual-processor.
Try audiobooks for a bit.
5. The Friend Read
Read with someone. Another's presence can ground you -- whether it be emotionally or otherwise. Especially if you're an extrovert, reading with someone may be exactly what brings your body and mind back into the story, or content, of your book.
A friendly read removes the fear of isolation, and reminds the emotionally-distracted-mind that -- although reading truly never is done in isolation, since it is an endless interaction and conversation with character, story, author, ideas, and self -- it can appear to be an act of isolation. Reading, especially in our social-media-saturated world, can seem disconnected.
Reading with a friend can gently remove that impression. And restore attention.
So read like a boss. But don't feel failed if you're a distracted reader. Troubleshoot the practice of reading, and peruse again for the fun of it, with tools that get you grounded on the page.
Do you miss reading for long hours? Have you never been able to? Do you have a little one who just can't stop for more than a page?