Do you find it hard to get started with your study every day? Or maybe you find it difficult to stay focussed once you do? Do you get nervous before exams? Do you worry that your nerves will negatively affect your chances of success?
Well there is a way of overcoming this and better still, it’s free and it’s easy. Have you heard of Mindfulness?
You probably have – it’s the latest buzzword, in education as well as popular media, and is currently a popular topic for health and lifestyle programmes and magazines. This concept is not a new one however, as it has links to yoga and other meditative practices taken from Buddhist traditions.
Don’t let that put you off though. It’s neither yogic nor religious. The main principle of Mindfulness is the idea of focusing all attention on the present moment, thereby eliminating all other mental distractions such as nerves, anxiety, stress and frustration, in order to create a sense of calm.
According to an Australian website Smiling Minds, mindfulness practices can:
- Reduce your worries, anxiety and distress
- Create a sense of calm
- Enjoy more energy
- Help you to relax and regulate emotions
- Enhance your awareness and creativity
- Improve your concentration and increase your productivity
- Enjoy better health and sleep
This is why it can be a particularly useful strategy for exam candidates. No one likes exams, obviously, but some students suffer more than others. If you’re like me, you feel anxious for days beforehand, have trouble staying motivated, can’t concentrate on the different topics of study, and can’t sleep at all the night before. And that’s nothing compared to the horrible feelings on the day of the exam itself.
With some simple Mindfulness practices though, you can take control of your over-active mind and control your fearful emotions.
The website Pocket Mindfulness suggests 6 mindfulness strategies that can be done at any time during the day and in any situation.
- Mindful breathing: focussing completely on your breath, on the inhale and exhale, for a minute or two
- Mindful observation: choose an object to focus on (something natural is preferable) and spend a couple of minutes really noticing it in detail
- Mindful awareness: at certain moments, stop for a moment and be mindful of where you are, aware of your 5 senses and how you feel in that moment
- Mindful listening: listen to music without judgement (ie. without thinking about whether you like it or not); focus on the different levels of the music – the vocals, the melody and harmonies, the bass, the beat – separate them out from each other
- Mindful immersion – take an everyday routine, eg. doing the housework, and instead of regarding it as a regular chore, focus intently on each individual action you take and create an entirely new experience
- Mindful appreciation: take note of 5 things in your day that you normally consider insignificant or go unappreciated, and be thankful
Some of these practices are things you can incorporate into your day on a regular basis but I particularly like the first option for those nights when worries about the next day are preventing me from falling asleep, and the second option for calming my nerves in those moments spent waiting for an exam to start.
There is much more to say about the concept of Mindfulness and plenty of other articles and resources online. So, if you think like the sound of it, why not download one of the many free apps available to get you started. The top-rated Mindfulness apps of 2018 are here.