Do you ever find yourself obsessing about future assignments, instead of focusing on the assignments you have due within the next week? Are your thoughts racing a mile a minute, because your mind is wandering in three different directions at once? As student ourselves, we have ran into this problem one too many times. You are not alone! Fret not!
When you think of mindfulness, you may picture yoga poses or closing your eyes and feeling the warm sun on your face. As students, the ability to recognize different thoughts or feelings from a refreshed perspective can be helpful for alleviating stress, improving concentration levels, and enhancing the way we study for assessments. Fostering these areas of our life can greatly benefit how we manage overlapping assignment deadlines, in-class lectures, and upcoming exams.
At the core, mindfulness can be thought of as grounding yourself in the present moment.
Some of my favourite grounding techniques include the following:
Now, you may find yourself wondering what petting a cat has to do with mindfulness. Let us explain! The key to grounding is tapping into your senses (e.g. smelling, tasting, touching, and hearing) when engaging with the environment you’re in.
Research has indicated several benefits to practicing mindfulness via meditation. For example, Mrazek and colleagues (2013) demonstrated that mindfulness can increase reading comprehension, attention, concentration, and ability to focus. In their study, post-secondary students took part in a 2-week meditation training course. These students were asked to complete a series of reading and work-memory tests, both before and after their training. Upon finishing reading and the memory tests, the students were asked to reflect on their experiences. After the meditation training, students were asked again to reflect on their concentration and mind-wandering during the test. Students reported fewer instances of mind-wandering and improved concentration! Meditation training had helped students manage their thoughts and distractions.
Often when we’re working on assignments or tests, we’ll find our minds wandering. Practicing meditation helps us to direct our thoughts and attention. Meditation also teaches us how to manage distracting thoughts that aren’t related to the task at hand. Try it out for yourself!
If you find yourself struggling to focus or stay on task with meditation, remember this cycle! Like anything, meditation takes time, effort and practice. You will get distracted and notice your mind wandering. THAT’S OKAY!
Remember to focus on your breathing, pay attention to the different sensations and the thoughts that come into your mind. If you find yourself getting distracted again, repeat the cycle!
How do you think we can apply this to learning? Mindfulness can help us improve the way we think and feel. It is also useful in managing stress when life overwhelm us (e.g. unpredictable work schedules, our car breaking down).
Too much stress can impact our memory and, therefore, our ability to learn. By this, we mean stress can alter the dynamics of our memories in three ways:
Stress can also influence the types of learning strategies we employ, and we may end up choosing strategies that may not be the most efficient for the goals we are attempting to accomplish (Vogel & Schwabe, 2016).
Remember, the goal for mindfulness is to be able to step back and take a moment for yourself. As students, we often find ourselves being overwhelmed. Mindfulness allow us to take a step back, relieve some stress, and help with our ability to concentrate. Therefore, the next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, slow down and take a deep breath! This will help you to approach studying from a refreshed perspective.
Eberth, J. & Sedlmeier, P. Mindfulness (2012) 3: 174
Mrazek, M. D., Franklin, M. S., Phillips, D. T., Baird, B., & Schooler, J. W. (2013). Mindfulness Training Improves Working Memory Capacity and GRE Performance while Reducing Mind Wandering. Psychological Science, 24(5), 776-781. Retrieved from https://scottbarrykaufman.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Mrazek-et-al.-2013-Mindfulness-Improves-WMC-GRE-Focus.pdf
Vogel, Susanne, and Lars Schwabe. "Learning and Memory under Stress: Implications for the Classroom." Science of Learning 1, no. 16011 (June 29, 2016): 1-10. Retrieved April 10th, 2019 from https://www.nature.com/articles/npjscilearn201611.pdf