Although, reading is unique in that it requires your full, undivided attention. “If your mind wanders and you just keep flipping the pages, you’ve got to go back. You didn’t get anything,” he says. You can’t immerse yourself into a literary world if your thoughts are elsewhere. “That’s a feature, not a flaw, of printed books–they really require 100% of your attention.”
According to this definition, reading qualifies as a monotask, or Wine’s shorthand for mindfully engaging in a single activity. And therein lies the key to participating in it effectively: “You can’t multitask while you’re reading. That’s when you’re doing it wrong,” he says. “If you have your phone out, or if somebody interrupts you from the next room, or if you’re reading while going up an escalator…That’s probably not such a great idea.”
Rather, to reap the benefits of a reading session, it’s important to sit down with the book (even for only a few minutes) and try to focus on nothing else but the pages in front of you. Of course, this may be easier with physical books; you may become more distracted by pings and other to-do’s while reading a digital copy. If you are reading on a screen, perhaps turn off your notifications to keep those distractions to a minimum. But get this: The more you read, says Wine, “you’ll find that your ability to pay attention and resist distractions [increases].” It’s like you’re strengthening your focus muscles.
So how long should you read, you ask? “One recommendation I have is to read a little bit every day,” says Wine. “It could be five minutes, it could be 20 minutes.” (For brain health, neuroscientist Kristen Willeumier, Ph.D., suggests reading for at least 15 minutes per day.) No matter how many minutes you spend with the story, it’s a worthy investment: “Reading is a good example of how we can give our attention to one thing and get it back even stronger,” Wine adds.