Distraction Steals Our Reading Time, Not Our Busy Lives

Developing repeatable reading habits will allow you to block out the distracting noise of the outside world and focus more intently on your calming activity.

Most people who say they don't have enough time to read for fun are wrong. Of course this isn't the case for everybody, but for the most part there's plenty of time to read. What's lacking is a suitable amount of clarity of mind to filter out noise from the outside world. That's the determination of The Guardian's Oliver Burkeman in a piece that went up earlier today. We seek out calm activities to free ourselves from communication. Unfortunately, communication has a way of butting into our free time: 

"Sit down to read and the flywheel of work-related thoughts keeps spinning — or else you’re so exhausted that a challenging book’s the last thing you need. The modern mind, [novelist and critic Tim] Parks writes, 'is overwhelmingly inclined toward communication. ... It is not simply that one is interrupted; it is that one is actually inclined to interruption.'" 

Think about how many times you've sought out to perform some task only to become distracted by your phone, an e-mail, social media, internal worries about work, or some other 21st century digital malady. It's not enough to simply make time to read. It's the quality of that time that counts. It's the amount of freedom you can achieve away from interruption.

How do we reach the appropriate levels of freedom? Burkeman suggests ritualizing reading (or whatever activity you prefer — it could be knitting or crafting or something similar). Set a scheduled time every week which you will set aside for your calming activity. The first few weeks may be a struggle, but eventually the formation of a new habit will allow you to stifle outside distractions and find a place of peace.

Below, author and Big Think expert Gretchen Rubin discusses how habits form:

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

Meet the Bajau sea nomads — they can reportedly hold their breath for 13 minutes

The Bajau people's nomadic lifestyle has given them remarkable adaptions, enabling them to stay underwater for unbelievable periods of time. Their lifestyle, however, is quickly disappearing.

Wikimedia Commons
Culture & Religion
  • The Bajau people travel in small flotillas throughout the Phillipines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, hunting fish underwater for food.
  • Over the years, practicing this lifestyle has given the Bajau unique adaptations to swimming underwater. Many find it straightforward to dive up to 13 minutes 200 feet below the surface of the ocean.
  • Unfortunately, many disparate factors are erasing the traditional Bajau way of life.
Keep reading Show less

Golden blood: The rarest blood in the world

We explore the history of blood types and how they are classified to find out what makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.

Abid Katib/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
  • Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
  • It's also very dangerous to live with this blood type, as so few people have it.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists create a "lifelike" material that has metabolism and can self-reproduce

An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Keep reading Show less