Most of us are familiar with that overwhelming feeling of not knowing how to manage all the information we're meant to absorb each day.
Fortunately, there's a way to free ourselves from that situation!
Let’s rewind a few years...
Mindfulness, like most trendy concepts in the Western health world, almost went straight into my ‘buzzwords I’m probably not going to bother with’ pile (a judgement that I now know was totally unreasonable!).
After having a few fairly open-minded friends insist it wasn’t just a fad, I decided to see if it were for me. And for a long while, I was certain it wasn’t.
Slowly but surely, I started to really notice my thoughts, and began to feel a positive effect on the way I processed new information.
It can be tough to get your head around the idea of it all. I know I struggled a lot (and still do!). However, it’s important to remember that mindfulness is just a word until it’s put into practice – it can be interpreted to mean different things in different situations.
As with learning, much of mindfulness is based on attention. Not in the traditional sense of being fixated on one thing or another, but of a more open awareness of yourself and your environment.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
Suppose you’re having trouble understanding concepts for a new project.
You’re stressed. You’ve read, memorized, practiced and quizzed, and still the information just doesn’t seem to stick. You’re starting to lose confidence and your brain may feel a little like this:
It’s common in a situation like this to start to lose your mind when you need it the most.
Here are 3 ways I got back on track.
1. Be more relaxed.
It’s important to note that a bit of stress is natural, and necessary for productivity. However, if your chest feels tight, your breath is starting to shorten and your temperature is rising... Increased levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) are working directly against your goals and are certain to end in counter-productivity. Mindfulness allows stress to exist at a healthy level by letting us remove ourselves from negative mind-loops and in turn helps us to learn more effectively.
2. Be more focused.
Using mindfulness techniques (we’ll show you some simple ones later) cause the brain’s neural pathways to be positively rewired, making it easier to hold your attention on the task at hand. Your brain has about 100 trillion connections between its neurons, and with that much going on up there, we can easily be tricked into thinking that we need to be thinking about everything at once!
This is when distractions and our pesky habit of multitasking come about.
So when you’re trying to absorb the critical stuff, it pays off to be able to give it your undivided attention and leave the unnecessary mind-junk in the background.
3. Be more accepting.
Learning isn’t always a lone-wolf experience. We benefit greatly through sharing ideas, which in many cases leads to a more powerful learning experience, free from judgement and pre-conceived ideas.
Mindfulness lets us take a step back, be more aware of our thoughts, and accept the views of ourselves and of others. This is key in learning as we’re able to separate what’s essential and what’s not, and recognise positives within negatives.
The most important lessons can be learnt from failure. Being mindful allows us to go from dreading it happening, to accepting that it may – and letting mistakes become opportunities.
So, where to begin?
Just as we never stop learning, the same can be said about mindfulness. Both are lifelong processes that strengthen with practice, and one size doesn’t always fit all. So no matter what learning style, method or technique best suits you - be assured that being a little more mindful will go a long way.
And the best way to get started is just that. Start!
It may be daunting, but good news is – there are many techniques for you to explore mindful learning. A good place to start (and still my favourite) is the simple breathing exercise. You’ll be surprised at how much of a difference it makes.
If you’ve noticed your curiosity rising (and if you have, you’re already making progress!) be sure to check back in with us next week for some easy ways to get your mindful adventure started!