5 Ways to Focus Better

Why Can’t I Remember Anything?

One of the most frequent questions I was asked as a practicing psychologist and more recently as a psychology professor is why can’t I remember anything.

The problem is most likely a focusing issue — not a memory issue.

An important distinction between memory and attention that I share in the focus video below.

In the video in particular, I describe how the Atkinson–Shiffrin memory model (see model below) differentiates between sensory, short-term, and long-term memory.

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And the important implications this model has for one’s ability to focus and remember information long term.

You can’t do big things if you’re distracted by small things.


Link to Fall Focus Article

5 Ways to Focus Better

Issue 124. The Drive Magazine.
Psychology Article: thedrivemagazine.com/posts/5-ways-to-focus-better
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Video of Post: Click Here

Happiness: What deters it? What contributes to it?

The Happiness Class

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One of my favourite things to do as a professor is to stay after class and talk to students. They look at the world in a very unique way. Motivating me to think about psychology at a whole different level.

  • Especially when it comes to FOMO and happiness:

FOMO is an acronym for fear of missing out, which is a feeling of anxiety that manifests itself in various ways, from a brief pang of envy to more intense feelings of self-doubt or inadequacy. Source: Macmillan Dictionary

Student Insights

In the video below I share the insightful questions my psychology students asked about social comparison and happiness today. Each question underscoring the famous quote:  

Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Happiness, FOMO, and Social Comparison

FOMO and “measuring happiness” against each other’s’s lowlight reel (difficult times) and highlight reel (celebratory times) was also an active discussion on social media

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I would love your insights too!

How would you answer the questions posed by my students:

  1. What are 2 deterrents to happiness?
  2. What are 2 contributors to happiness?
  3. How is your happiness influenced by other people’s highlights and lowlights?
    • Social comparison and happiness was the crux of today’s class discussion and accompanying video.
  4. What simple changes can you make today to enhance your happiness?

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Optimism Bootcamp - Click Here

You hold the key.

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Even though we often have little control over the “outside forces” in our lives, we can always make a positive difference – from the inside out.

Start here. Right here. Right now. Be still. Breathe in gratitude. Be thankful for this very moment. Start small. Notice your passing thoughts. Let go.

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Awareness empowers.

Notice the exact time it is right now. Say today’s date out loud. Look up at the sky. Wink at the clouds. Stomp your feet on the floor. Smile with gusto.

Slowly bring yourself back to this moment.

Grab onto the coffee mug you are holding. Inhale the rich scent of the sumatra you are drinking. Feel the warmth of each passing breath.

Feel the texture of the clothes you’re wearing. Wake up to the sound of your voice. Whisper. Sing. Shout it out!

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Dance a little dance. Stand up tall. Anything and everything that shifts you from outer space to inner spirit. From not enough to overflowing.

Positive change begins within.

Come back to yourself. Back to the grace of your magnificent spirit. Into the beauty of your incredible form. Feel the rhythm of your beating heart. Sense the pulse of life itself. 

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Everything you need to transform yourself and the world already exists within you. You matter. You truly matter. But you have to believe it to see it. Feel it to know it. One gentle, uplifting thought at a time.

You hold the key.

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Originally published on March 1 2017

Change the world. One compliment at a time.

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Celebrate their strengths.

Today I encourage you to notice the little things in everyone you meet. Their smile. What lifts them up. What makes their heart sing. How hard they work. How they get through a day.

Show them you care.

Acknowledge them. Notice them. Lean in. Listen completely. Praise their hard work. Compliment their positive attitude. Encourage their dreams. Thank them for their service.

It only takes a moment to change a life.

Never forget how good it feels to hear something positive about yourself. Pass the good vibes on.💛💫

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Reading People: Lesson #2 Social Awareness

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Reading People Begins with Awareness

In reading people lesson #1 I discussed the importance of self awareness before attempting  to understand and read others behaviour. “Self-knowledge is the beginning of wisdom.”

 Reading People: Lesson #2

Adding to the first lesson is an excerpt from my Pitch with Passion  presentation with student and community entrepreneurs at the EPIC Genesis Entrepreneurship Centre.

➰ Notice Everything➰

In this one minute video clip, I apply the psychology of perception to help audience members read people and their body language. Including their nonverbal “tells” and signals.

The key is to pay close attention to how people’s words match (or don’t match) their nonverbal behaviours. A technique that works in poker too! ♣

To learn more on the topic of reading people, visit:

  1. Reading People: Lesson #1 Self Awareness  Video Clip
  2. Reading People: Lesson #1 Self Awareness Blog Post
  3. Emotional Intelligence:  Dr. Daniel Goleman EQ Video
  4. Three Techniques for Reading People: Psychology Today
  5. FBI Agent Shares 9 Secrets to Reading People: INC Magazine
JOIN MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL 
BY CLICKING HERE

Study Tip: Stay Focused

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

Why Can’t I Remember Anything?

More often than not, it’s a focusing and attention issue, not a memory problem.

An important distinction between attention and memory described in the video below:

Stay Focused

You Can’t Do Big Things If You’re Distracted By Small Things

Change your life. Five minutes at a time.

 Are you tired of doing the same old, same old?

Are you ready to end the repetitive cycles in your life?

Is it time for a change?

But …..  you…..  don’t…..  have…  time…

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Surrender your fears, your resistance, your excuses.

Change need not be overwhelming.

Start small. End Big.

Little changes make a big difference.

They add up over time.

And ultimately have more staying power.

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Where to start?

Begin the transformation process with a daily habit.

Something that you do automatically – without thinking.

Start with what’s right in front of you.

Literally in the palm of your hand.

Put your phone down. Look up. Breathe in deeply. For five minutes at a time.

Use a random interval timer on your phone to cue change.

Every time you hear it beep – take a full on tech break.

A spa session for the mind.

A hello to the world moment.

A reminder to seek joy.

Out of the fog of technology into the luminescence of reality.

Time to breathe deeply.

To stretch fully.

To grab life by the horns.

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What five minute change will you make today?

From digital distraction to student connection.

How do teachers compete with smartphones?

They don’t.

Resistance is futile.

Competing with a machine is a downhill battle. Instead, teachers must focus on what they do best – connecting with students.  Rather than lamenting about students being glued to their smartphone, teachers should consider why students do it in the first place. You can’t solve a problem if you’re not asking the right question.

Step #1 Discover the underlying cause.

There is no doubt that smartphones have changed the way we live and learn. Which is why educators (including myself) must take a step back and reframe the smartphone problem. Student distractibility existed long before smartphones. Lack of attention is the common denominator.

We doodled. They text.

We passed notes. They facebook.

Step #2 Reexamine how you teach.

We all have an idea in our mind about how we perform at work. Yet the only way we will ever have an accurate picture of our performance is to collect data on our concrete behaviours. Click on Teacher Behaviors Inventory (TBI)  to obtain a PDF of this suggested assessment tool (used in my doctoral research).

Sample items from TBI inventory –

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The TBI assessment tool will help determine how you engage students, capture their attention, and sustain curiosity with instant gratification just one click away. The TBI also includes a measure of how you spark student interest and arouse curiosity in the lessons you teach. Completing the inventory will give you a baseline of your current teaching techniques. It will help identify areas of strength and challenge (potential growth).

Step #3 Model what you expect.

The next step in student engagement is to “become” what you expect from your students. Motivate students by being motivated!  For example, I write motivational quotes on the blackboard each day. The goal is to model each quote I post. And encourage students to do the same.

Grab attention by being attentive to the unique needs of each student, and responsive to the distinct personality of each class. Engage students by being engaged, passionate, and excited about the topics you teach. Enthusiasm is contagious! Stimulate curiosity by being curious about how students think.

Step #4 Show students you care.

In order to move from instant gratification to meaningful interactions in school (and in life), we must show students how much we care. We must be present and mindful  in our own classrooms. And in tune with each student and teaching moment.

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Student leadership conference at St. Clair College.

For students need to know how much their learning matters. How much they matter. Week after week. Class after class. Students are our reason.

To Learn More: Click on Be The Motivation

You hold the key.

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Even though we often have little control over the “outside forces” in our lives, we can always make a positive difference – from the inside out.

Start here. Right here. Right now. Be still. Breathe in gratitude. Be thankful for this very moment. Start small. Notice your passing thoughts. Let go.

img_0364

Awareness empowers.

Notice the exact time it is right now. Say today’s date out loud. Look up at the sky. Wink at the clouds. Stomp your feet on the floor. Smile with gusto.

Slowly bring yourself back to this moment.

Grab onto the coffee mug you are holding. Inhale the rich scent of the sumatra you are drinking. Feel the warmth of each passing breath.

Feel the texture of the clothes you’re wearing. Wake up to the sound of your voice. Whisper. Sing. Shout it out!

img_0808

Dance a little dance. Stand up tall. Anything and everything that shifts you from outer space to inner spirit. From not enough to overflowing.

Positive change begins within.

Come back to yourself. Back to the grace of your magnificent spirit. Into the beauty of your incredible form. Feel the rhythm of your beating heart. Sense the pulse of life itself. 

img_0802

Everything you need to transform yourself and the world already exists within you. You matter. You truly matter. But you have to believe it to see it. Feel it to know it. One gentle, uplifting thought at a time.

You hold the key.

Happiness is a conscious process.

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When you notice the blessings in your life (big or small), happiness happens. One conscious thought. One mindful emotion. One insightful gesture. One moment of wonder.. at a time.☀️

Inspiration: 21 positive thoughts for your morning. 

10 Tips to Help you Focus Better.

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“How can I focus better when I study?”

Preparation is half the victory.

1. REIGNITE your motivation.

  • Revisit why you are studying in the first place.
  • To one day save someone’s life as a nurse.
  • To protect vulnerable children from abuse.
  • To create a business that will employ displaced workers.
  • Your future self will thank you for the sacrifices you make today.

2. BORE yourself silly before you study.

  • Studying pales in comparison to relaxing on a comfortable couch watching your favourite tv show on Netflix.
  • Which is one more reason to do nothing (no television, no internet) long enough that hanging out with textbooks sounds like a party!
  • For example: Stare at a blank wall until you are so bored that all you want to do is study. No kidding!
  • The quieter your mind becomes, the better your focus will be.

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3. Create a SACRED SPACE for studying.

  • The physical act of preparing a space can be very calming for students.
  • Clear all visual clutter. Clean your room. Organize your desk.
  • Make your space a welcoming, energizing, inspirational place to be.
  • Add in vibrant colours, fresh notebooks, lightly scented candles, bright overhead lights.
  • Your studying deserves this level of respect.

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4. Prepare yourself PHYSICALLY before you study.

5. 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.

6. Remove ALL distractions.

  • Shut off your phone. Hide it away. Just looking at it takes up mental space.
  • And if you can’t trust yourself – 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.

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7. 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!
  • Do practice tests. Read the textbook chapters out loud.
  • Have a classmate or friend quiz you.
  • Teach the subject to someone, anyone!

8. Be slightly UNCOMFORTABLE while you study.

  • Do not sit or lie on your bed when you study.
  • Sit up straight in an office chair.
  • Keep the temperature cool.
  • Be slightly uncomfortable.
  • This will help keep you alert and awake.

img_00209. Take frequent MOVEMENT breaks.

  • Study breaks are optimal at 5-15 minutes in length.
  • Study sessions should not be longer than 45 minutes at a time.
  • And when you take your breaks aim to burn off your restless energy.
  • Move!  Sing a song. Draw a picture. Clap out loud!
  • Open a window. Smell fresh air. Go outside. Hug a tree!

10. 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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Gratitude multiples our treasures.

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This rollercoaster life.

Life is full of highs and lows. Wins and losses.  Joys and sorrows.  Celebrations and defeats. Too much and too little.

Make the shift.

Nothing shifts us from scarcity to abundance more quickly than a sudden moment of appreciation and gratitude.

Multiply your treasures.

Take a moment (this moment) to look up and breathe in all that you are grateful for. Right here. Right now.

Bless what is.

Be it the fresh air that you breathe. The clean water that you drink. The sunshine over your left shoulder. Your child playing nearby. The captivating twinkle your friend’s eye.

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The miracle in this moment.

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Miracles are everywhere.

The only catch is that we have to “be here now” to notice them.

Gratitude speeds their discovery.💫

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What are you grateful for?

Right here. Right now.

In this moment – I am grateful for this hot cup of coffee. And for this delicious lunch. I am grateful for Tim Horton’s camp day. I am grateful for the generosity of Tim Horton’s customers.  I am grateful to be Canadian.

Miracles are everywhere.

Your attention unlocks the key.

The miracle (of this moment) was that I was so wrapped up in the busyness of my day that I did not wake up to the fact that today was #CampDay. (A big deal for Canadians.)

It wasn’t until I began searching for what I was grateful for (in this moment in time) that I woke up to the vibrant coloured balloons and bold inscription on my Timmies coffee cup.

It wasn’t until I went looking for (and expecting) miracles that I realized I was surrounded by one. 💙

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Miracles are everywhere.

What do you see?

At this moment in time.

What are you grateful for? Right in front of you.

 

Miracles are everywhere.

They will set you free.

What miracle did you discover?

Right here. Right now.

What miracle did you find – that had been there all along?

The Sweet Spot.

Nowhere else to be.

That moment in the day when you realize “you’ve arrived”.

And the most interesting part is that you haven’t gone anywhere.

Instead, you finally come home to the present moment.

The here and now. The sweet spot.

No where else to be. But here and now.

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Right Here. Right Now.

This picture is from a retreat I did with one of my best friends nine years ago. The speaker asked each participant to share when they felt most at peace.

Each participant shared a different story. From when their newborn baby finally slept through the night to when they finally received their promotion at work to when their boyfriend finally proposed.

My answer was (unexpectedly) simple. I shared that I felt most at peace in that very moment. “No were else to be. But here and now.”

Wide Awake to Everything.

I had finally found my sweet spot. A place where “all is well” no matter the circumstances. A place I had been before. But failed to recognize.

A place positive psychologists call flow, and alternatively, mindfulness. A sweet spot that sparkles. Lights up. Expands. Stands still. Speeds up. And flows..

Running. Teaching. Encouraging. Writing. Laughing. Helping.

A sweetness I now easily recognize in the course of each day. That moment when I am wide awake to everything. To every sight. To every sound.

No judgements. No resistance. Simply accepting what is. And what will be.

IMG_1813 How do you know when you’ve finally “arrived” to the present moment? What does your “sweet spot” look & feel like?