Meditation in many different forms has been found to help people across a whole range of personal and professional endeavours. Whether you’re looking to manage stress, improve overall wellbeing or concentration, meditation could be the answer. And lately researchers have turned their attention to how meditating can help students ace their exams.
Familiarity Versus Understanding
The main reason meditation can be particularly useful in study and exam preparation is in helping improve our focus. Although we might believe that we are experts at multitasking, and our smartphone powered lives encourage continual flitting between one topic and another, humans are simply not designed to cope with multitasking successfully. The truth is that if you believe you’re multitasking, you’re really switching from one task to another. Of course, it might be a quick change between topics, but true multitasking in the sense of holding multiple tasks in the mind simultaneously doesn’t exist - the human brain simply can’t cope.
The reason it might seem that we can multitask effectively is to do with how our brains process information. It may feel like we are switching seamlessly from one activity to another, but without proper focus, information is all too often only superficially retained. That’s exactly why there are times you can be watching a TV program whilst playing on your phone, and minutes after the program is finished, the content has evaporated from your consciousness, and you can’t remember a thing that happened. The familiarity we have with the content at a superficial level can trick the brain into thinking the information has sunk in, even when it has not.
Now imagine this scenario in the context of study and exam preparation, where not only familiarity, but true understanding is essential. Revising with a distraction such as music, TV, or intrusion from social media, might initially seem to work fine. But if you’re unlucky you might just find that you sit in the exam hall and draw a blank.
Shutting Out the Distraction
In today’s world, it’s all but impossible to switch off distraction from technology - let alone from friends and other activities more enjoyable than studying. More often than not, focus is not a personal strength of millennials. And that’s why meditation can be the way to break the cycle of ineffective multitasking to ace those crucial exams.
Researchers found that when individuals were given a series of tasks to complete, those who had undertaken meditation training performed much better in tests that included multiple distractions to throw participants off course. The meditation training allowed this group to focus on one task at a time more effectively, even when bombarded with other stimuli, and return to focus more quickly than the other group who had not benefited from the training. The results were so compelling that some professors are even introducing meditation practice into lectures.
For any students reading this, spring can be a tense time of year, with exams looming not too far away, and revision on the agenda. Taking a break can seem counterintuitive, but perhaps you could consider a meditation class or two as part of a balanced revision schedule, to calm and relax - and positively impact your exam hall performance.
Do you constantly multi-task or rather try and multi-task while you are revising? Do you think that meditation could help you? Your thoughts and comments below please...