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the best thing I did for my brain - reading fiction

The best thing I’ve done for my brain this year

Recently I broke up with non-fiction. I couldn’t do it anymore.

Reading is one of my hands down favourite ways to spend time. But somewhere along the line it started to feel less like a pleasure and more like a chore.

In a world seemingly consumed by wellness,I became a bit obsessed with stretching, challenging and bettering myself – both physically and mentally.

There was meditation and yoga, gratitude journaling and deep breathing exercises.

There were a lot of green smoothies and a LOT of coconut oil.

I downloaded podcasts that centred on personal development. How to be better, faster, stronger, smarter. I listened to them whenever I had a free moment. Idle time was wasted time, every moment an opportunity to shovel useful and life-improving matter into my brain.

I was reading all the trending health and wellness blogs and knew all the top influencers and thinkers. I followed them on Instagram and Facebook and Linked In. I signed up to their mailing lists.

Then there were the books. I purchased all the top rated personal and professional development books. I was leaning in, trying to be a girlboss, learning to fail at almost everything, mapping out how to get the corner office…

The books themselves were great. Devoting time to self-improvement is important to growing as a person and developing beyond your current skillset or knowledge base but I was overdoing it.

I found myself feeling guilty when I sat down to watch my favourite sitcom after work. I couldn’t go for a walk without putting on a podcast, flipping through emails or penciling in reminders and events in my Google Calendar.

Pre-bed reading left my mind full of the latest and greatest way to supercharge my career or apply the best productivity hacks out there. My brain was so full with all the stuff that was floating, whizzing, whirling around in there that I forgot what it was like to take a break.

So I took some advice from my brother, and I stopped reading non-fiction. All those self-help books could wait. What I needed was a novel – a story that would transport me into another world, into the minds of brilliantly written characters with their own personalities, relationships and challenges to contend with. Away from the daily grind of work and careers and self-help gurus.

It was like a literary variation on taking a chill pill. It felt good.

I read some of the classics I’d been meaning to get to for years. I re-read some of my old favourites. Some of it was dark and intense, some lighthearted and spirited. I stretched myself into new, previously untouched genres (can’t say I would recommend 2001: A Space Odyssey but hey, at least I tried).

I made other changes too. I subscribed to some podcasts because they were fun, not just because I could learn from them (My Dad Wrote a Porno, I’m looking at you). I unsubscribed from a lot of the wellness blogs I was following. I chose to focus on exercise instead of meditation because trying to fit it all into my pre-work morning routine was stressing me out. I still have the odd green smoothie.

My break-up with non-fiction is temporary. At the right time, I’ll dip my toe back in. I won’t be able to stay away for good, and why would I want to? There’s a lot to gain from the wide ranging universe of non-fiction.

For now though, I’ll take a little bit of escapism, a dive into the mind’s of the Austin’s and Plath’s and Bronte’s of the world. Some Steinbeck as I perspire through the hottest days of summer, some Orwell while bundled into a packed train on my commute home. A thriller while I sit at home as a grey and ominous storm rolls in, rain pounding against the windows. A romance novel on a perfect spring day.

So what are you reading currently? Have I convinced you to pick up some new fiction? Let me know your favourites – I’m always in the market for a good read!

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