If school or college is getting you down or you feel you are struggling to keep up you may be tempted to try harder and work for longer in an effort to keep up. While making sure you put in the right amount of work is important (you won’t get anywhere if you don’t do anything), perhaps you need to take a moment to pause rather than pushing harder and potentially burning out. Meditating has been shown to help people from all walks of life, including students, although there is also a lot of misunderstanding about meditating.
As a practice, meditation dates back to Hindu traditions of Ancient India, and is often associated with some sort of mysticism or ‘out there’ lifestyle, but this needn’t be the case. Just as physical exercises such as Tai Chi or Yoga have become accepted as normal in the west, so meditation is beginning to be seen as just another tool for life. Being ‘mindful’ can improve your studies as well as your general outlook, health, and more.
How Do You Meditate?
You don’t need to wear any special clothes, light incense, or play sitar music in the background in order to meditate (although you can if you like, of course).
There are a number of different techniques that people use to meditate and you can adapt any of them to suit yourself. However, perhaps the simplest is to just sit quietly and focus on your breathing. This ‘mindfulness’ technique involves breathing deeply and letting yourself relax and become aware of different parts of your body, feeling the sensations in your arms, legs, and so forth. Counting your breaths (quietly in your head) as they go in and out also helps. The idea is to block out external thoughts as best you can and just focus on yourself for ten minutes or so. With practice you will find it easier to meditate and switch off outside distractions, even being able to meditate as you move about your everyday life!
While meditation can be relaxing – which in itself isn’t a bad thing – how can it actually help your studies?
- Improved Focus
Studies have shown that meditation improves your ability to stay focused for longer. While it is still not exactly clear why this is, the benefits are obvious to students – including being able to pay better attention in class. This focus can also be used outside of the class, such as with sports. A lot of athletes visualise themselves succeeding for example, which has been shown to improve performance (positive mental attitude!).
- Better Memory
The Harvard Gazette undertook an 8-week study, asking participants to meditate for 27 minutes per day. Amazingly the results showed that there was an increase in the grey matter in the hippocampus part of the brain – which is responsible for memory and learning! The benefits of an improved memory are clear – especially when exam time rolls around!
- Reduced Stress
Meditation doesn’t just improve your mind, it also helps reduce stress. With the hormonal changes that teenagers are undergoing often leading to heightened stresses, conflict with parents and other problems, taking time to calm down is important. Calming your mind, even if just for a few minutes each day is hugely beneficial to your general wellbeing and may actually help prevent stress-related health problems – both mental and physical! It can help you maintain a sense of perspective and bounce back from any setbacks too! Less stress can also mean that your ability to manage your anger is improved too.
- More Energy!
While a lot of people find that they feel relaxed and sleepy after meditating for the first few times, after a while meditation can actually boost your energy levels. Reducing fatigue and improving your attention means that you will be able to perform better during the day.
- A Boost To Your Immune System
Coupled with a healthy diet and making sure you get enough sleep, regular meditation has been shown to provide a measurable boost to your immune system too! Feeling under the weather can seriously affect your day-to-day performance and make it hard to keep focused on your work, but even short-term meditation can help stop you getting ill!
Meditation can reduce stress, improve your focus and concentration, increase your memory, and even help stop you getting ill. While the reasons behind some of these factors are still shrouded in mystery, study after study has demonstrated the real benefits of regular meditation. It is perhaps little surprise that many schools and colleges have started ‘meditation clubs’ for students. Just spending 10 minutes meditating each morning can make a real difference to your health and wellbeing as well as your studies – why not give it a go?