How Mindfulness Could Help You Raise Your Grades

The world is an uncertain place right now, and it’s completely normal to be feeling a little unsettled or worried about what the future might hold. 

However, if you begin to feel emotionally or mentally overwhelmed, you may also notice that your schoolwork (and GCSE or A Level preparation) starts to suffer. 

All around the world, students are using a technique called mindfulness to manage any symptoms of stress and anxiety that are holding back their studying and exam performance. In fact, a recent poll of Save My Exams users revealed that 33% of you have already given mindfulness a go!

If you’re looking to raise your grades this year, why not explore mindfulness for yourself? Get started with this week’s blog post, in which our study experts explain exactly what mindfulness is, and how to put some of the basic principles into practice for a mental health boost

What is mindfulness?

The exercise of mindfulness involves becoming more aware of the present moment, so that you can understand yourself and manage your emotions effectively.

It has some similarities to meditation, but the emphasis is on recognising destructive patterns of thought and feeling, and then training yourself not to get caught up in them.

Because mindfulness is about reconnecting with our bodies and our surroundings, studies have shown that regular practice can help to improve sleep, reduce stress and promote a sense of happiness and self esteem.

How mindfulness can help students

If you find that a racing mind and niggling worries are getting in the way of your relaxation and your studies, learning and mental health experts recommend the calming and focusing effects of practising mindfulness.

Constantly thinking about the future or dwelling on events of the past are mentally exhausting, so allowing yourself to break free of these thought patterns will free up more energy and head-space to learn and engage in the here and now.

Mindfulness is often recommended as a method by which to overcome exam nerves or feelings of being overwhelmed with schoolwork. It can even help with the social anxiety that holds many teenagers back in the classroom.

Everyday practice

If you want to incorporate some simple calming techniques which are based on the principles of mindfulness into your everyday routine, try one of these suggestions. They might seem odd, difficult or pointless at first, but if you do them regularly you will notice the positive impact

  • Recognise and note down negative thoughts. When a distressing thought pops into your head, acknowledge what triggered it and how it makes you feel, and then write this information down. Keeping a record should help you to spot patterns and be more aware of your thought habits. 
  • Notice the everyday. In order to live more in the present moment, start by paying attention to the world around you. Rather than scrolling on your phone or listening to music as you walk down the street, try to focus on the individual sights, sounds and smells you are experiencing. This should help to calm and ground you, as well as waking up your body’s delicate senses. 
  • Body scan. A body scan is a mental ‘scan’ from your head to your toes during which you focus on relaxing each individual muscle group, one at a time. You should also breathe deeply and rhythmically, checking each part of your body for sensations or emotion. A body scan helps to relieve tension and ease the symptoms of a panic attack.
  • Sit in silence. Some people feel nervous when they sit in total silence, alone and still. Challenge yourself to sit in silence for 10 minutes a day without distraction, and try to focus your attention on your breathing and bodily sensations. 

Where to get started 

There are lots of easily accessible tools and resources available for students looking to learn about, or practice, mindfulness.

The two most popular apps which you can use to guide yourself through a daily mindfulness practice are Calm and Headspace. They are both very convenient to use both online and offline, for beginners and also for more experienced practitioners. Both offer some free content alongside paid subscriptions.

For a more comprehensive guide which details exactly how students can apply mindfulness to improve their studies, try the book ‘Mindfulness For Students’ by Stella Cottrell (also available as an eBook).

In addition, The Oxford Mindfulness Centre runs a free introductory course and offers podcasts too. YouTube has a whole host of free content, including this mindful breathing exercise.

Are you going to give it a go? Are you already a big mindfulness fan? Share your experiences with us by messaging us on social media @SaveMyExams

If you’re worried about your mental health, visit Mind to access online support. You might also want to explore the NHS Five Steps To Mental Wellbeing

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