Do you often read a paragraph and find that you need to re-read it again?
Do you seem to be distracted by your own thoughts?
Do you think about the past or the future instead of focusing on the task at hand?
Do you daydream or think about events, parties, friends or relationships?
Does it take you a long time to complete tasks, due to mind chatter, recurring thoughts or worrying about past/future?
Turns out you have a “normal” mind – in other words a mind which is scattered, busy and almost always working overtime. It rapidly moves from one thought to the next, without much of a pause. Our mind is a wonderful tool, however society doesn’t focus on giving it a break. As a VCE student you may learn in great details how to balance a chemical reaction, how to differentiate a function, how to write an essay and obviously much, much more. The educational system is based on filling your mind with more and more information, facts and concepts however has a limited focus on how to clear the mind. Even when you move away from school, there is still emphasis on clogging the mind with as many thoughts as possible. If you switch on the radio, TV, go on the internet you are literally bombarded with pollution that fills your mind. Our minds are filled up so much that modern society has much more mental illness than ever before!
A busy mind during VCE
If you are like most people, your mind is busy and on overdrive. Society has accepted this as “normal” which is why there is not much focus on clearing the mind. A busy mind can significantly affect your efficiency, mental clarity and energy levels. Here is a list of what your mind does when it is untamed and scattered:
– Thinking about events not related to the task at hand
– Thinking about friends, family, boyfriends or girlfriends
– Focusing on events that have not yet happened i.e. your ATAR score in the future
– Thinking about your future career
– Focusing on the past
– Talking to a “voice in your head”
– Talking to “multiple voices in your head”
– Predictions of what someone thinks of you or other people
It is not possible to be 100% efficient if you have a busy mind -in fact, it would be surprising if you are even 20% focused on a task at a given time. An overly-active mind can cause problems during your VCE studies such as:
–Tiredness: an over-active mind can reduce your vitality and energy
– Low-concentration span: it is difficult to concentrate on one task at a time when your mind is interacting with continuous thoughts
– Decreased memory: to memorise properly, it is important to store information into long-term memory. If your mind if too full there is little room left!
– Inefficiency: a busy mind significantly decreases your learning pace
What to do about a busy mind?
If you have a busy mind, like the majority of people, what are some practical things that you can do to clear or empty your mind? What can you do to develop single pointed concentration, to work at a higher efficiency without wasting valuable time energizing thoughts and “mind talk”?
In order to eliminate clutter in the mind, to learn more effectively, meditationis very important. To many people meditation seems like a boring cliche that simply involves lying down and relaxing. Something that you primary school teacher may have invited the class to do in Grade 6, just to simply get some silence after a busy day. However meditation is really so much more. It is not just a simple relaxation technique – and if clearing the mind is what you want to achieve meditation is challenging work! At the beginning of meditation, when you have just started to practice this skill, you will find that your thoughts are persistent. In fact the rarely stop!
An exercise to observe your mind
1) Find a quiet spot where you will feel comfortable and will not get distracted
2) Lie down/sit up simply relax your body
3) Close your eyes and wait
4) Slowly you will find yourself thinking about something, observe how many times you get swept away with the chain of thoughts. In other works can you still focus on watching your thoughts? Or do you interact into them more personally? How prevalent are your thoughts?
This exercise should give you awareness of exactly how active your mind is – it should also show you that it is not easy to learn effectively if the mind doesn’t stop thinking, especially during studying.
Meditation exercises for VCE students
This can actually be used by anyone, however since this is a VCE based website we will keep it for VCE students.
1) Be sure to minimise distractions and find a quiet spot where you will not be interrupted by anyone.
2) Put yourself into a comfortable position – your mind still has to remain relatively active so ensure you don’t fall asleep!
3) Take 5 deep and slow breaths – focus on the air rushing through your nostrils and leaving your nostrils.
4) Keep focusing on the breath once you finish the deep breaths
5) Try to remain an observer of your breath, if any thoughts appear observe them flowing like a river – you do not need to interact in the river, you can simply watch it.
6) You will probably find yourself being carried away in a chain of thinking at one stage, this is perfectly fine, simply detach from the thought and observe the breath again.
7) Try this for 15 mins a day.
If you try this exercise for a while you will notice that you focus on your breath even throughout the day! It is a great way to minimise irrelevant thinking. You can use this technique while performing maths questions or learning a new theory – it will centre your mind to focus on the task at hand.
There are many more meditation and concentration exercises that you can do in order to focus your mind. I encourage most VCE students to practice meditation so that they can eliminate stress, become more effective and improve learning.