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The Three Ms of Studying: Memory, Mindfulness, and Minimum Mind Wandering

study break relaxation tips


By Gerry Cunningham, Psychotherapist at the Mindfulness Clinic, Dublin

Are you revising, feeling stressed out and under pressure with exams coming up? Did you know that taking a mindful moment can help you concentrate and focus, it will also strengthen your immune system and helps to switch your nervous system out of flight/fight mode and into a relaxed and aware state that is open to attention and learning. 

Studying is one of the most challenging intellectual tasks young adults face throughout their school and university years. In order to develop an efficient study routine, with long-term storage of the information studied, you need mindfulness, minimum mind wandering, and a well-functioning memory capacity.

Focus and friends

Mindfulness is about paying attention, concentration and focus.  Building these skills with friends and peer support is helpful. Creative ways of using memory include condensing notes and recording directly onto your iPhone or dictaphone.  Blend these study aids with recreation, friendship and activity.  Go for a jog or walk and listen to your iPhone notes or share and listen to peer recordings. Friends and focus is a useful way of sharing and breaking down study into small manageable pieces.  

Focus during the exam period

Retain clear focus, which is based on 3Ds of desire, determination and discipline.  The most difficult challenge is discipline, so it may be helpful to include play, fun and peer support.   Ensure you get eight-hours sleep, eat healthy snacks throughout the day and build fun and social time into your study routine.  

Stress Buster Techniques

Try this mindfulness technique to help reduce your stress:

  • Stop what you are doing for a moment and take one or two deep breaths to help bring you into the present moment
  • Look around you, and silently name three things that you see in your study or bedroom
  • Now opening to the sounds around you, silently note and name three things that you can hear right now
  • Bringing your attention to your body, silently name three sensations that you can feel in this moment (maybe warmth, tingling, contraction, or coolness)
  • Bringing your attention to smell and taste, what do you notice in your immediate awareness when you bring your attention to these senses? Silently name what you experience
  • Take one or two breaths to finish this mindfulness exercise

Repeat this exercise every now and then to deliberately bring your awareness to what is happening in the present moment and to build your resilience to dealing with exam anxiety and general pressures around this time of the academic year by cultivating mindfulness in this way.

About Gerry Cunningham

Gerry has a private practice at the Mindfulness Clinic and provides tailored treatment approaches in CBT, counselling and psychotherapy. He is currently pursing research interests at the University of Oxford and further training at the Minster Centre, London. Mindfulness Clinic Dublin