Have you ever been reading a book and found that you’ve just read an entire page without digesting a single word – or caught the train home and been staring blankly out the window only to realise that you’ve missed your stop? Now what about doing two hours of ‘study’ while managing to check Instagram 11 times, contributing to three different Facebook group chats and finding yourself deep down the rabbit hole of YouTube? If you can relate, you’re certainly not alone.

These are all examples of ‘mindlessness’ – when you’re awake and functional, but distracted and not capable of giving 100% attention to a single task. People can often find themselves in auto-pilot mode however, when it comes to study, this is not a state you want to be in.

As the name suggests, the ideal state to be in is a ‘mindful’ one. A mindful person is focused and grounded in the present moment. The good news for students is that mindfulness can be used as a powerful tool to boost your study efficiency and get you energised and ready to go come exam day. Here are some tips to bringing the mindful edge to your study sessions:

  1. Meditation and breathing exercises: Meditation brings you into the present by forcing you to focus on your breath. Before studying, practice breathing techniques that block out distractions and energise your mind. Mobile Apps such as Smiling Mind are great for helping you do this. Don’t worry if you’re not good at it to begin with!

  2. Get in the (study) zone: Creating a space for study where you know you’ll be free from excessive noise and distractions will help you get more done. For some, this is a desk at home, for others it’s a library or a quiet cafe. Sitting on your bed staring at your messy room, not so much.

  3. Switch off: It might be difficult in this day and age, but turning off your phone (or putting it on ‘do not disturb’) and staying clear of tv or Netflix is super important to helping you stay focused. Remember, mindfulness is all about the here and now – these technologies take you away from the present.

  4. Break up your study sessions: It can be hard to stay in a state of mindfulness for over an hour – even people who have been practicing for years still find it difficult to keep the concentration. Take regular breaks to refresh and re-energise. If possible, get outside during these breaks and have a healthy snack.

  5. The usual suspect: You’ve heard it a million times – ensure you get a good night’s sleep. But it’s especially important when it comes to mindfulness and study. You’ve probably realised by now that if you’re going off two hours sleep, it becomes a whole lot harder to concentrate. Try cutting down on caffeine and energy drinks, especially after 4pm.

Think about walking into an exam room. Now imagine walking into a sports arena with 100,000 screaming fans. The situation might seem scary to most but many athletes work on making sure they feel energised and ready to perform at their peak. A key reason behind this is a secret performance-enhancing weapon – mindfulness. Some sports teams even employ a mindfulness coach, something previously unheard of in the ‘macho’ world of sport. Players are taught to be ‘right here, right now’ in high-pressure situations. As with anything, this takes time to develop and a big part of the process is about acknowledging when your concentration is drifting and bring it back to the present.

The challenge is to see your exam as an opportunity to thrive, not to fail. Mindfulness can help you get there.

Related reading: Three tips to getting a good night's sleep

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