What if I told you that you can improve your performance on any test and reduce test-related stress and anxiety in as little as 30 seconds? Fortunately, this is possible and goes by the name of mindfulness. Mindfulness simply refers to the level at which you are present in a given moment. In other words, mindfulness reflects how well your attention is harnessed to experience the world. Studies have shown that those who practice mindfulness exercises can expect marked improvements to their cognitive and physical performance as well as health benefits associated with stress and anxiety reduction.
Almost every mindfulness exercise contains some sort of meditative element. When you first think about meditation, you might imagine that you need to sit with your legs crossed in a lotus pose isolated on top of a mountain or in the wilderness somewhere. Although that sounds like a great locale for some mindfulness practice, the conditions for meditation aren’t nearly that prohibitive. Mindfulness exercises can be practiced pretty much anywhere and take a wide variety of different forms.
Things like going for a walk, eating, and even breathing all fall under the meditative umbrella. The key element is a focus on allocating as much mental bandwidth as possible to the task at hand. If you are going for a walk, try your best to orient your thoughts towards what is happening around you. What colors can you pick out in the world around you? What do you smell and see? How does the ground feel beneath your feet? Allow the stimuli of the outside world to encompass you and override your thoughts about that upcoming test or interview or what notifications you have on your phone. If you can detach from those routine stresses and mental processes for 1 second, 30 seconds, 5 minutes, or an hour and hone in on your current surroundings you will have actively practiced mindfulness.
It doesn’t matter if you are 3 months away from a test, trying to cram information the night before, or even sitting at a desk with the test in front of you. There are definitive benefits to dropping what you are doing, closing your eyes, and taking a few measured breaths. In through the nose, hold, out through the mouth. Chances are you will feel calmer and be better prepared to tackle the task at hand than you did before you closed your eyes. Not a bad trade-off for 30 seconds of your time.
If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness or mindfulness exercises, there are a plethora of resources available online. YouTube has tons of guided meditations if you have a little bit of time to invest. Google searches will yield step-by-step instructions for a seemingly endless number of exercises. Alternatively, I’m always available at the front desk here in Armonk to chat!