5 Tips to Help Students Focus Better.

This post was inspired by the one question students ask year after year:

“How can I focus better when I study?”

Focus has as much to do with what happens before you study as what happens while you are studying.

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1. Remove ALL distractions.

  • Shut off your phone. Better yet — put it awayJust looking at it takes up mental space
  • Research shows the mere presence of a smartphone on your desk impairs intellect and reduces brain power.
  • And if you can’t trust yourself to hit the switch – lock your phone in the trunk of your car and give a trusted friend the key until you are done studying. No kidding!
  • You’ll miss it for the first 20 minutes of your study session, then you’ll forget all about it.
  • Bonus = you’ll get twice as much work done in half the time.

2. Be an ACTIVE studier.

  • Do not passively read the textbook – you will fall asleep, I guarantee it!
  • Instead, engage with the material.
  • Get active. Make the chapter come alive!
  • Have a classmate or friend quiz you.
  • Do end of chapter tests.
  • Read the textbook chapters out loud.
  • Teach the subject to someone, anyone!

3.  Clear out MENTAL CLUTTER.

  • Empty your mind of your to do lists, worries, and what ifs before you study.
  • Write them down and put them in a worry box to be tended to once exams are complete.
  • Repetitive thoughts running through your head could be your biggest distraction.

4. Take frequent MOVEMENT breaks.

  • Burn off pent-up, restless energy during study breaks.
  • Get up. Walk around.
  • Do not grab your phone.
  • Move your body!  Sing a song.
  • Draw a picture. Clap out loud! 
  • Open a window. Smell fresh air.
  • Go outside. Hug a tree!

5. REWARD yourself… eventually!

  • Use the Premack Principle to reward yourself.
  • Delayed gratification can be an excellent tool for sustaining attention and motivation.
  • Make a list of all the things that are distracting you from studying and use them as rewards once all your studying is done.
  • Go to Starbucks as a reward for studying, not as your location to study. (Too many distractions!)
  • Bonus = you’ll get twice as much work done in half the time and you’ll have a special treat to look forward to when all your hard work is done.
  • Your success is worth the wait!

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Related Post: I believe in you.

The unexpected benefits of stress.

Most people wince every time they hear the word “stress”.

It’s as if the whole world has been conditioned to respond to stress the same way, by word alone. A habitual thought response that is often more dangerous than the stressor itself.

What you believe matters.

The latest research in psychology examines stress in an entirely new way.

Rather than viewing stress as unequivocally bad for one’s health, health psychologists pinpoint belief systems as the moderating variable between stress and biology.

Stress perception ↔ Health benefits

Embracing meaning is more important than reducing discomfort according to Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal. Stress can make us stronger, smarter and happier — if we learn how to open our minds to it.” Source: Stanford News

Which is one of many reasons why I love Dr. McGonigal’s TED Talk. She encourages us to think about stress in a whole new empowering way. With an emphasis on growth, purpose, and meaning over needless suffering.

Mindset is everything.

Using health psychology research, Dr. McGonigal reveals how perceiving stress as either positive or negative can have a “live or die” impact on individual stress response.

Change your thoughts. Change your stress response.

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  1. Believe that stress is good for you (eg., stress heightens awareness) and you live longer.
  2. Alternatively, believe that stress is bad for you (eg., stress causes heart attacks) and you die sooner.

But don’t take my word for it.

You need to experience your own “Aha Moment” firsthand.

How to make stress your friend.

In the video below, Dr. McGonigal illustrates the many upsides of stress, including help seeking behaviour, increased energy, and robust health. She also backs up her stress positive claims with census records and comprehensive health research.

Hope you enjoy these fresh, new ideas about stress as much as I do!

“Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat.  But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive.” Source: TED Talks

Helpful resources for adopting a resilience mindset:

  1. How to Turn Stress into an Asset by Amy Gallow
  2. Cognitive Reframing and Stress Management by Liz Scott
  3. Six Ways to Do Cognitive Restructuring by Dr. Alice Boyes
  4. Reducing Stress by Changing Your Thinking by Mind Tools
  5. Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life by Dr. Wayne Dyer
  6. The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good by Kelly McGonigal

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Related Post: Stress resilience at school.

Your happiness depends on it.

Most people fight against what brings them despair instead of openly receiving what brings them joy.

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Shift your focus. Change your life.

Consciously accept the good that already exists in your life.

Your health. Your freedom. Your vision. Your voice.

Accepting what is does not lower the bar.

Quite the opposite.

Acceptance opens your eyes to all the favour that exists in your life.

Your hope. Your creativity. Your community. This moment.

And it’s that good feeling that motivates you to strive for more of what’s right for you. Instead of fighting against what’s wrong for you.

Begin by accepting what is.

Moment by precious moment.

Your happiness depends on it.

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 Applying this Post in Everyday Life

  1. The 3 to 1 positivity to negativity ratio is one way of applying this post in your everyday life.
  2. Specifically, each time you criticize something about yourself (or any area of your life); you must acknowledge (accept) three positive aspects about the very thing you condemned. Hence, the 3 to 1 positivity ratio.
  3. For example, each time you put yourself down for not having enough friends, you need to accept three wonderful aspects of spending time alone. (Freedom; Spontaneity; Peace of mind.)
  4. This daily practice helps dampen the adverse impact negativity bias (a type of cognitive distortion) has on your life.

Better to bend than break.

Flexibility is essential for resilience.

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When life changes direction, are you able to change with it?

Are you flexible and open to new experiences?

Are you able to break free from old patterns and habits?

Or do you struggle to adapt to anything new and different?

In this video clip, I describe how the flexibility of palm trees helps them adapt and ultimately be strengthened by hurricanes.

Applying this Post in Everyday Life

“Do the opposite of what you normally do.”

  1. Wake up one hour earlier to enjoy some unexpected quiet time.
  2. Exercise at night instead of in the morning.
  3. Try gluten-free or vegan to support a dear friend.
  4. Swap your favourite hobby for something brand new.
  5. Sit in a different spot in the classroom than you’re used to.
  6. Drive a different, more scenic way home tonight.
  7. Meet three new people in your community this week.
  8. Trade television for library books for one month straight.
  9. Go to sleep on the opposite side of the bed.
  10. Spend the weekend silent and completely word free.

Change one routine today and open up to unforeseen freedom and opportunity.

Just Breathe.

Sometimes it’s the smallest things that have the greatest impact on our happiness.

Something so close, so within reach, we often forget it was there in the first place. The good night’s sleep we’re yearning for; waiting patiently at the end of each day. The connection to nature we’re searching for; available 24/7 just beyond our front door. That extra deep breath;  we frequently forget to take.

You possess a power so magnificent, so liberating, right under your nose.

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The deeper the breath. The deeper the peace.

Breathing is one of the few physiological functions that can be controlled both consciously and unconsciously.

When everything feels out of control, breathing is the one thing that will always be within our control. The times we’re under the most amount of stress is the exact time we need to expand our breathing – not restrict it.

We must become conscious of breath.

The next time you’re under any kind of pressure. Stuck in traffic. Rushing from class to class. Dealing with a difficult customer at work. Desperately trying to recall answers on a final exam. Wake up to the formidable power that exists within you. Right here. Right now. Right under your nose.

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Inhale peace.  Exhale pressure. 

Fear is a lie.

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Don’t be fooled by fear.

Look it directly in the eye.

Fear distorts reality.

Fear exaggerates the truth.

Step back. Take a pause.

 Remember who you are.

You have overcome great adversity.

You have faced this phantom before.

The wolf is an optical illusion.

Only your strength, your courage, and your untapped superpowers are real.

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How do you break free from the illusion of fear?

Understanding Fear: Identifying Cognitive Distortions
Overcoming Fear: Fixing Cognitive Distortions

Make room for destiny.

Are you ready to move on but are reluctant to let something go?

Letting go is not giving up.

Letting go is not giving in.

When you let go you make space for something better.

When you let go you generate energy needed for moving forward.

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Close your eyes. Clear your heart.

Breathe.

Let go of what no longer serves you.

Let go of what weighs you down.

Release.

In doing so, you make room for destiny.

Your highest purpose.  Your greatest calling.

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Your ultimate joy!