Being a college student can be demanding and stressful, from trying to juggle a jam-packed schedule to performing well on exams, finding the proper balance isn’t easy.
However, incorporating certain practices such as meditation and mindfulness into daily routines can help students reduce stress levels, improve focus, concentration, and memory, and ultimately improve performance on exams.
Highlighted below is an overview of how meditation can be used to achieve these goals.
Introduction to Meditation
Meditation is a practice where an individual creates a sense of deep tranquility and relaxation by calming down the mind. There are a number of techniques that can be used to achieve this. An individual can focus on breathing, use visualization techniques, chant mantras, or concentrate on a specific point in a room.
Additionally, mediation is not only practiced sitting on the floor in the lotus position but can also be practiced lying down, walking, or standing. It can be practiced on its own, as well as in conjunction with other practices such as qi gong, tai chi, and yoga.
Academic Benefits of Meditation
Alleviates Stress and Anxiety
The high-pressure environment and constant demands of college life can cause students to develop high levels of anxiety and stress. Studies have shown that practicing meditation on a regular basis can help to reduce anxiety and decrease stress hormone levels in the body.
Researchers from Saint Louis University conducted a narrative review of research on the effects of mindfulness meditation on reducing anxiety and stress in college students.1 A total of 57 studies were reviewed. The researchers concluded that mindfulness meditation significantly reduced anxiety and stress in college students based on the reviewed studies.
Individuals who practice meditation and mindfulness have also been shown to be more likely to avoid distractions and focus on specific tasks. This suggests that students who practice meditation can improve their ability to concentrate and focus while studying.
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Research conducted by Liverpool John Moores University investigated the link between cognitive flexibility, mindfulness, and meditation.2
The results of the study suggested that cognitive flexibility and attentional performance were positively related to levels of mindfulness and meditation practice. Those who meditated performed significantly better compared to those who did not meditate on all attention measures.
Additionally, a 2012 study showed that meditation can significantly improve the ability to allocate attention to a specific task.3 The study examined a group of highly-trained Buddhist monks in contrast to a control group comprised of students without meditation experience.
While meditating, the practitioner learns to focus their attention on a single and specific object for prolonged periods of time. Whenever thoughts start to be diverted, the individual learns how to quickly disengage from distractions. The researchers hypothesized that these demands of meditation would enhance the practitioner’s efficiency in terms of allocating their attention.
In a series of tests, the experienced meditators appeared to display a high capacity to focus on a single element at a time and process in-depth information at a more effective rate than the students without meditation experience.
Based on these results, the researchers concluded that this suggests that practicing meditation can enhance how quickly attention can be relocated and allocated, which reduces response latency and increases the depth of information processing.
Another important aspect of academic performance is the ability of students to remember the course material they are studying.
A study conducted by the University of California at Santa Barbara found that mindfulness training improved GRE performance and working memory capacity while reducing mind-wandering.4
The randomized controlled investigation examined the effects of a two-week mindfulness-training course on cognitive performance and mind-wandering. Those who received the mindfulness training showed improved working memory capacity and GRE reading-comprehension scores.
The researchers concluded that mindfulness training is an effective technique for helping improve cognitive function and boost memory.
How To Practice Mindful Meditation
Mindfulness is a learned skill that can be learned and improved through practice. It can greatly benefit students by enabling them to focus on what they are studying and retaining the knowledge for later.
To practice mindful meditation, find a relaxing and quiet space. Sit cross-legged or in another comfortable position that you can remain in for an extended period of time.
Close your eyes and then begin to slowly pay attention to your breath, your body, and the sounds that are made by your lungs as you breathe in and out. Gradually, allow every task and thought to recede into the background and you become completely aware of the way that your body feels in the present moment.
In order for mindfulness to be effective, your breath, thoughts, and body must all be synchronized and aligned with the present moment. Begin with breathing to become anchored in the present moment, and then introduce your body to this experience by inviting all of your senses one by one. Finally, clear your mind of everything that relates to either the past or future and fully focus on the present.
When mindfulness meditation is practiced on a daily basis, it can continue to improve your mindfulness capacity, allowing you to reap all of the benefits that it provides. This can improve your overall performance on mentally challenging tasks.
Research and anecdotal evidence strongly suggest that practicing meditation can significantly enhance the mind’s ability to focus, concentrate, and retain information.
Most importantly, this is something that can be learned and is not simply an innate ability. By practicing simple meditation techniques, students can reduce stress levels, and enhance their ability to learn course material, study more effectively, and perform better on exams.