10 Easy Ways to Be Mindful while Doing Everyday Tasks

Being mindful has many benefits, but it sounds complicated and demanding. Also, some people think that practicing mindfulness requires meditation or yoga, for example. But mindfulness doesn’t have to include much time or yoga mats. What if we say there are plenty of easy ways to practice mindfulness in your everyday life? And by doing so, you can de-stress and do your best. So, no more excuses – let’s start!

1. Drink more water.

Our bodies dehydrate overnight, so start the day with a glass of water at breakfast. Pay attention to how that gulp is going through your body. Also, try not to think about anything else. To stay energetic, don’t forget to drink lots of water all day. It doesn’t sound hard, does it?

2. Make your bed in the morning.

While making a fresh cup of coffee to start your day, make sure to make your bed. Slow down your breathing as you smooth your sheets and tuck in corners. This way, making bed is not a chore, but a mindful practice. Further, you will feel as if you have already completed a task and started your day productively. Starting the day with a habit will help you develop other useful habits. It has also been shown that, since you spend a large portion of your life in your bedroom, the way it looks can severely affect your mood, so making the bed equals better mood and less stress throughout the day!

3. Enjoy your meal.

Avoid multitasking while eating your lunch – take at least 15 minutes to focus completely on enjoying your meal, allowing it to re-energize you. Also, chew your food slowly. While eating, enjoy the texture and the taste. This is shown to boost your mood and register more satisfaction, which further curbs overeating.

4. Organize things.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re at work or home, being in chaos can cause stress and anxiety. Picking things and organizing them is a pretty simple way to reduce that stress. Also, while doing so pay attention to every bit and piece of objects and to each placement of the object. To practice mindfulness while organizing, you are called to turn your attention to what’s happening right now: what you are thinking, what you are feeling, and what your senses are telling you.

5. Stretch whenever you can.

Nowadays, we spend most of our time at the desk, working, studying or just surfing the internet. To say that that amount of sitting is bad for our health would be an understatement. Be aware of your body and take a rest from sitting. Get up for at least a few minutes every hour and walk around your room or office, or use that time to stretch. You will see that it not only helps your body but your mind as well!

6. Turn off your devices.

Mobile phone ringing and beeping every now and then can cause anxiety. Also, we usually constantly check emails and social networks on our devices. It distracts us from our primary activities and people around us. Therefore, every once in a while turn off your devices. This way you’ll be more productive and refresh yourself.

7. Pay attention to your breathing.

Are you nervous before some big date? Take three slow and deep breaths from your belly before entering that room. Even if you’re not nervous, stop thinking about other stuff for a few seconds and just pay attention to your breathing. Try to feel how your stomach and chests move, how fast and deep is your breathing…

8. Walk mindfully.

You don’t have to sit and cross your legs to practice mindfulness. As you walk to the store or to work practice mindfulness. Focus on your breathing and each step you take. This way you’ll clear your mind of clutter, decrease stress, restore your sense of focus, and increases overall well-being.

9. Pause between actions.

Your to-do list is pretty long, right? Also, there are many things that you haven’t included there. But it is good to pause between your actions. Take a moment and be proud that you’ve done something. Let yourself to rest a bit. And don’t think about other stuff that is waiting to be done.

10. Do your routine activities mindfully.

Everything you do can be a way of practicing mindfulness, especially those activities that are not demanding. Try to pay more attention as you’re brushing your teeth before bed, for example. Try to be more aware – activate all of your senses. Maybe you’ll find those activities more interesting than you thought.

Mindfulness can easily be integrated into your daily routine. As we can conclude from above, there are so many tasks that we take for granted, but they are all primed for more mindfulness. However, nothing can be done in one day. Try practicing these tips for a few days and they will become even easier. Try practicing them for a few weeks and they will become habits!

References:

[1] Heaversedge, J., & Halliwell, E. (2012). The mindful manifesto: How doing less and noticing more can help us thrive in a stressed-out world. Hay House, Inc.

Exercises to Help Boost the Dyslexic Mind

Dyslexia is a disability that impairs language learning – spelling, pronunciation, reading, and reading comprehension – despite normal intelligence.

Seeing an otherwise bright kid struggle with something “as simple as a reading task” is likely to take most people aback. The inability to relate to the issues kids with dyslexia face can result in both parents and teachers overlooking the importance of effectively overcoming them.

I tutor middle-schoolers with dyslexia in Language Arts. I found that implementing games as exercises can yield outstanding results. Dissecting the workings of two of my favorites will help you understand core problems and give you the ability to tailor your approach to your child.

Why games?

Throughout my experience, I’ve noticed that kids with dyslexia largely benefit from kinaesthetic ways of learning when it comes to Language Arts. Merely listening or observing isn’t enough to build correlations between letters and sounds. When a multitude of their senses are engaged, words begin to gain meaning.

So, how do games fit into this narrative? First off, games force you to implement a variety of skills (like waiting for your turn, which is connected to executive functions – inhibition) – often without you even noticing. Secondly, although they demand your full attention, they provide fun in return. This means a boost in motivation, making distractions less likely to occur.

The interactive aspect of playing games keeps us from getting bored. We make mistakes, we learn to lose. The feedback we get from other players pushes us to do more. We begin to understand the importance and value of doing our due diligence. Working together, regardless if as a team or as opponents, will form a bond and establish trust between you and your child.

You’ve created an environment where making mistakes is part of the process and help is always around the corner. This is particularly useful when you encounter more complex tasks –  more specifically, school assignments.

Hangman

Hangman is one of my top picks for working with kids who struggle with dyslexia. It incorporates all the crucial benefits of learning through games – focus, patterns, interactivity, and creativity.

In a world of distractions, we struggle with focusing on what truly matters. Facing an abundance of information is intimidating, especially when you’re not yet ready to tackle it. Hangman takes things back to basics. The game focuses on one word alone, meaning all attention is fixed to a single point. It allows the opportunity to build a relationship with words devoid of pressure.

Playing the game, patterns start to appear: the frequency of vowels or how ‘q’ is always followed with by a ‘u’. We begin noticing these patterns outside of play time – in the texts we read or words we spell for the first time. These connections testify that there’s a method to the madness that is spelling. Over time, a database is generated in our heads, enabling us to become skilled at guessing how a word might be spelled – accurately!

Don’t be afraid of not covering enough material. Easing into the idea of spelling takes time, but has a great impact on how we feel about language and language learning. Once we’ve mastered some basic skills, learning becomes quicker – and more efficient. Taking the edge off doesn’t just make the exercise less intimidating, but promises greater results.

Moreover, the game’s interactive aspect allows a varied approach. You can choose to collaborate or compete (you don’t even have to stick to just one or the other!). This way, you begin forming a more dynamic and complex relationship with your child when learning.

Lastly, you can get creative. Incorporate the child’s interests (e.g. basketball) when choosing words or creating your Hangman stick figures. By customizing your Hangman character, the game becomes more fun. With something so basic, possibilities are endless. Give your child the freedom to express themselves.

20 Questions

The concept of this game is very simple: guess the person, place, or thing in 20 questions or less. You probably know this game for its vocabulary-building quality, but what if I told you it can help a child master storytelling?

A good storyteller knows how to engage their audience. They set the scene – providing all the information needed to get their point across. We often don’t realize how much we have to factor in to tell a good story: go into enough detail for the audience to understand, but not overdo it to the point that they’re bored. This is where 20 Questions comes in.

We’ll need to master the game in its original form first. As we play, we’ll start to notice patterns that help us identify the word faster: where we can find this thing, what it’s made out of, in which situation are likely to use it. Certain questions have priority in the more general sense – to set the scene, while details are what helps us pin the word down.

Through this process, we become more aware of the importance of having enough information. Moreover, we begin noticing that adding unnecessary details is just that – unnecessary – it doesn’t do much to contribute to the story, distracting us while we try to identify the word. Now let’s take it to the next level to incorporate the game into storytelling.

Before you begin, help your child map out the events in chronological order. A timeline will make it easier to follow the story. Then guide the child by asking them appropriate questions. I would recommend using wh- questions. Ask WHERE the story took place, details about the scene; WHO was involved, and the background of the characters. Then move on to WHAT actually happened and WHY. Additional questions may be prompted by something they mention or when they get stuck.

With time, you’ll notice the child no longer needs assistance. They have actually memorized the questions themselves and can now determine the necessary information on their own!

Gaming done right!

I hope the examples given inspire you to incorporate games into learning. Don’t be afraid to brainstorm with your child in order to make the games even better! Children love to come up with their own rules – and there is a lot to gain from that. Since the way we learn isn’t universal, small tweaks can make a huge difference in how we interpret and memorize information. Moreover, the experience you gain from this will form a strong bond between you, preparing you for future endeavours.

As Vince Gowmon once said:

Quote

Author: Tutor Olivera

Our English Language Tutor, Olivera, who loves to incorporate games when she works with her students, wrote this article. If you need someone who will make learning fun, teach your child how to write the best essays, or boost their dyslexic mind, just book a FREE Video Call with the Nobel Tutor Olivera to find out if she’s a good fit for your kid.

7 Easy Steps to Stress-Free Holidays

Despite wanting to spend time with family during the holidays, getting together can be difficult to arrange. Everyone has different schedules. Work, school, friends, and many other things seem to get in the way. However, winter break is a great opportunity for togetherness and bonding with family.

Winter break

It’s the end of December and what does that mean? Winter break is finally here!
Some people will say this is the most wonderful time of the year. Winter brings not only snow, but also holiday magic, the joy of giving, and the happiness of sharing these moments with your family and friends. Also, schools are closed, and the kids are at home. Spending time with your child is a little bit easier now, right?  But winter break lasts (only) a few days – from Christmas Eve until January. So we want you to get the most out of it!

Winter holidays

How did you spend Christmas this year? We hope you enjoyed it and made some unforgettable memories. However, New Year’s Eve is fast approaching. If you’re out of ideas on how to celebrate it, read our articles Creative Ideas for How to Spend Holidays With Your Family part 1 and part 2.

Holidays bring stress, too!

How did you feel days (or weeks) before Christmas? Let’s admit it – we all get stressed out making plans for the holidays. We want everything to be perfect – which can mean that although holidays are usually joyful, they also bring a lot of tension. Family obligations and lots of have-to-dos can be overwhelming, so feeling out of control is not unusual.

A sad woman is looking outside through the blinds.If you’ve ever tried to organize dinner for New Year’s Eve, for example, you know it’s not easy! Let’s mention a few things that you’d do:

  • Prepare a favorite dish using your grandma’s recipe
  • Make cookies
  • Choose, buy, and wrap the-best-gift-ever for everyone

And, still, there’s so much more to do! Does this sound familiar?

We should keep in mind that nothing can be perfect. The good thing about that is – it doesn’t have to be! Also, do you really have to do all those things the way you’ve planned ? You don’t!  The key to memorable holidays is simply being together.

New Year’s Eve is coming soon, so don’t make the same mistake again. Here’s a few tips on handling that holiday stress.

Togetherness is the key

Dealing with all this pressure is pretty hard. So we’ve listed seven ideas that are easy to implement and can help you spend memorable and, more importantly, stress-free holidays with your family.

  1. Don’t try to do it all yourself.

    Everything’s easier if you do it together! Those things you “have to do” transform into family activities. Making cookies with your children is sure a big mess, but also so much fun! Probably those cookies won’t be the best you’ve ever eaten, but that’s okay because you made them together!

  2. Don’t worry about how things should be.

    The cookies we mentioned are a great example. Also, keep in mind that most families have less than perfect holidays – the meal didn’t turn out well, the cookies aren’t that pretty, family tension is high, etc. And if you have negative feelings, don’t deny them – there’s nothing unusual or wrong about feeling down at holiday time. Admitting and talking about them will surely help. Just try it.

  3. No devices – really listen to people.

    In today’s digitally-fueled world, it’s pretty hard not to answer calls, reply to text messages, or check what’s new on social media. Screen time often eats into family time. Still, we can’t not check our devices from time to time. How about making a rule that no devices are allowed during mealtime, for example?

  4. Be generous.

    Here’s one more family activity – make gifts for people who are homeless or feeling lonely. If you have toy experts in your house (younger kids) you can let them pick some toys and donate them to Toys for Tots. This will teach your children about sharing and brighten someone’s holidays.

  5. Show gratitude.

    Let everyone know how much you’ve appreciated their gift. Thank people who do things for you but whom you may have taken for granted. Show your family members how much they mean to you and how much you love them. Also, call a relative who lives far away and wish them happy holidays.

  6. Time is not money.

    Actually, it’s more important than money. The time we have to care for one another, especially for our children, is more precious than anything else in the world. This quote says it all:

    If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them and half as much money.

    – Abigail Van Buren

  7. Winter break is a break.

    Notice that you’re being hard on yourself. Even though you want to please your children and make everything the way they love, don’t forget about yourself. Treat everyone with kindness, including you! Take time out. Let yourself to sleep more, watch your favorite movie again, and generally do the things you love.

We at Nobel Coaching & Tutoring wish you Happy Holidays! Health, happiness, and lots of love this Season and success in the New Year!

Resources:

[1] Daly, K. J. (2001). Deconstructing Family Time: From Ideology to Lived Experience. Journal of  Marriage and Family, 63(2), 283-294. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2001.00283.x

[2] Folbre, N. (2006). Family time: The social organization of care. London: Routledge.

[3] Hofferth, S. L., & Sandberg, J. F. (2001). How American Children Spend Their Time. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63(2), 295-308. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2001.00295.x

The Two Faces Of Perfectionism

In this article, we’ve decided to tackle the topic of good and bad perfectionism. People tend to have very black-and-white views when it comes to this. They think perfectionism is either a great thing that helps us become better, or that it’s a horrible habit which may lead us into depression and anxiety. But as with most things in life, it’s not that simple. There’s the good kind and the bad kind, and we’ll help you learn how to tell them apart and strive for the good one.

Perfectionism As We Know It

Let’s first start with a widely accepted definition of perfectionism. Perfectionism refers to the desire to achieve the highest standards of performance while being extremely critical about one’s performance. [1] Therefore, if you’re a perfectionist, you’ll be setting unrealistically high goals for yourself. Chances are, you’ll also be judging your performance more critically than anyone else, which will lead you to become easily dissatisfied with your actions and achievements.

Man yelling into a phone.

So, in essence, you’re trying to reach something virtually impossible and getting angry at yourself when you make even the slightest mistake. What a paradox!

From this definition, it’s clear that what we usually think of as perfectionism is, in fact, bad for our health and our happiness. Not only are you dissatisfied when you make a mistake (even if you’re the only one who sees it), but even when you are performing well, you’re constantly feeling stressed out. “I can’t make a mistake!” “What if I look silly in front of my co-workers?” “What if I mess this up?”. It’s a lose-lose situation.

What Makes Perfectionism Bad?

So, the bad form of perfectionism stems from a striving that’s turned into a demand. [2] If you keep telling yourself, “I must do this perfectly!”, you’ll be causing yourself a lot of anxiety, maybe even insomnia and depression. Bad perfectionism has as a consequence low self-esteem, unhappiness, and a tendency to react more negatively to feedback. [3]

But if you are only striving for perfection and not demanding it, you’ll be able to work toward accepting yourself with all your flaws much more often. Moreover, you’ll stop seeing each mistake as a failure and accept it for what it is – a normal thing that can happen to anyone and is in no way the end of the world!

Quote that says "if you are only striving for perfection and not demanding it, you’ll be able to work toward accepting yourself with all your flaws much more often. "

The Importance of Self-Acceptance

It may be clear now that the main difference between bad and good perfectionism lies in self-acceptance. [2] You can still have perfectionistic goals, but if you also want to be happier, have better relationships, and be far less stressed out, you’ll also need to develop the ability to accept yourself and your actions non-judgmentally. You can decide to work harder and do better next time, but you won’t be putting yourself down and feeling worthless, and that’s a huge difference.

If you often find yourself feeling like this and it’s bringing you down, there are ways to change this behavior.  Reach out to one of our Coaches and schedule a free 30-minute consultation, which can help you see the possibilities of overcoming the tendency.

Self-Oriented, Other-Oriented, and Socially Prescribed Perfectionism

Another important thing to mention is that perfectionism toward oneself is not the only form of perfectionism. You can also be perfectionistic towards others, which is referred to as Other-Oriented Perfectionism. [2] This can happen to parents, romantic partners, bosses… Instead of placing huge demands on yourself, you may be putting them on others.

Girl sitting at her desk surrounded by books.

Sometimes, parents can, out of the best of intentions, place enormous pressure on their children. “You need to win this game!”, “You have to become valedictorian!”. It can even happen in everyday situations: “You must make a perfect dinner for your husband’s family this Thanksgiving!”

Other-Oriented Perfectionism can result in a child being overly concerned about making a mistake, and always be thinking they’re not good enough, no matter what they do.

Or maybe you were this child. Maybe you had parents or teachers who always expected perfect results, or maybe you have a boss who does the same! This would be the kind of perfectionism called Socially Prescribed Perfectionism. [2] You notice that others have set very high standards for you, and you’re doing your best to prove capable of reaching them, even if it is affecting your health and happiness.

Turning the Bad Into Good

The good news is, you can still strive for more, and encourage your kids to do the same. The formula remains the same: show acceptance, both for yourself and for your children. Give your children time to accept that they’re not perfect before you suggest some things they might think about changing next time. Give them the chance to accept the defeat on their own terms, and help them by hugging them and telling them you are proud of the effort they put into it. Start by letting them know that you accept them – and then maybe take them out for some ice cream. That tends to help as well!

The same thing goes for you. Set realistic goals for yourself and accept that, like every other human being on this planet, you’ll sometimes make mistakes and take more time to reach those goals than you were planning. It doesn’t make you any less good; if anything, it makes you more human.

To Conclude…

… Accepting yourself and others is an essential part of becoming (and raising) healthy, happy, and successful people. Take care of your health and happiness first – and reaching your goals will turn out to be far easier.

References:

  1. Antony, M., Purdon, C., Huta, V., & Swinson, R. (1998). Dimensions of Perfectionism Across the Anxiety Disorders. Behaviour Research and Therapy, Vol. 36, pp. 1143-1154
  2. Lundh, L. (2004). Perfectionism and Acceptance. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, Vol. 22, 4, pp.255-267.
  3. Stoeber, J., & Otto, K. (2006). Positive Conceptions of Perfectionism: Approaches, Evidence, Challenges. Personality and Social Psychology Review, Vol. 10, No. 4, pp. 295–319

Mindfulness Practices for Study-Ready Mind

Mindfulness, the state of active consciousness and full, open attention, can be helpful for students in its various forms, as we explained in a previous article. There, we listed some of the mindfulness techniques you can use while studying when you need an instant fix. Yet, as we noted before, the state of mindfulness is best achieved if practiced regularly and studiously, consciously rethinking and reorganizing some of your everyday activities.

So now we’re suggesting some new techniques that can help you in studying. These should be practiced every day apart from your studying rituals, and can, in time, radically change your focus, concentration, memory, and openness to details.

Don’t worry! To achieve a study-ready mind you won’t have to radically change your lifestyle. Mindfulness practices and meditation can be done in around half an hour a day. The trick is not to give up and keep repeating them, even if the results are not instantly apparent.

Switching up your routines

Much of the mindfulness program concerns habit releasers. These are everyday tasks “meant to reveal and break open some of our most unaware life patterns of thought and behavior” [1], which means changing or breaking down habits that can trap you into negative ways of thinking. These techniques snap you out of your old timeworn rut and open up exciting new avenues to explore. Two habit releasers that books about mindfulness recommend can be especially beneficial when it comes to studying

Number 1The first one is waking up earlier. It doesn’t have to be two or three hours earlier – for starters, simply set your alarm 15 minutes before you usually do. This has nothing to do with having more time to study in a day; it’s about reorganizing your mind. The point is to relax and practice focus while enjoying the peace of the day’s beginning. In the morning, things are still and quiet and you can use these 15 minutes to lie in bed, relax and put your mind in order.

Visualise things you have to do that day, put them in order and focus your mind on them. You can also use this time to practice full consciousness – lie or sit in peace, let your thoughts and sensations flow, and try to notice as many things around you as possible. This way you’re practicing your focus, which is one of the key factors that will help you study, but you’re also clearing your mind and getting ready for the work day in front of you and all the information you’ll need to embrace.

Number 2The second habit releaser is valuing entertainment time. In today’s world and life of the student, a lot of entertainment time is spent online, either on social networks or the internet. This exercise will help you map what you’re spending your time on, limit your free time and use it more purposefully. The point is to learn not to take these pleasures for granted but to use them fully and consciously so that a break really feels like a genuine release and you’re able to return to your work fully focused. When you take a break with purpose you don’t need to do it as long to obtain the relaxation benefit. Plus, you’ll certainly be giving yourself more time to study and cutting out any distraction!

First, think about what you really like to do online and limit yourself to only that. You can, for example, see what’s new on your Facebook feed and check Instagram notifications, and after you do, switch the internet off. You can set a time rule for yourself or limit yourself to one online activity. Do this consciously and, in the evening, write down how it felt, what you did, your thoughts, feelings, and impulses.  This way, while you’re online, you’ll be focused fully on that and only that, enjoying your valuable free time, and afterward, when you start studying, you’ll be able to clear your mind and fully focus on the task in front of you. [1]

Performing tasks mindfully

One of the best mindfulness practices won’t take a moment of your day because it involves performing the tasks you do every day – but mindfully. This, again, is an exercise in focus, one that will help you notice the details and information in your everyday life. You’ll find yourself noticing more while you study, finding all the details that you might otherwise miss, and really being conscious of what you’re reading.

So, take one of the routine activities we all perform daily (brushing teeth, walking from one room to another, washing dishes, showering, drinking tea or coffee…) and simply pay extra attention while doing it. Not slowly, but just while carefully observing all that you do and all that is happening. The example in the book Mindfulness: An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World is Showering:

Showering: pay attention to the sensations of the water on your body, the temperature, and the pressure. Notice the movements of your hand as you wash and the movements of your body as you turn and bend, etc. If you decide to take some of your showering time to plan or reflect, do so intentionally, with the awareness that this is where you have decided to focus your attention.

Illustration of three people, one on a computer, one meditating and one enjoying chocolate

Practice your senses

We’ve already talked about how important it is to connect your body and brain. That is why a meditation walk is always beneficial and something you can try even if you’re not studying at the moment. The point is to practice your concentration and focus and become aware of things you have never noticed – or felt – before. These are all valuable in helping you in the study process – which is fully about focus, memory, and attention to detail.

Another exercise for this is practicing of the senses. This one is really delightful as it includes chocolate! The point is to eat the chocolate, but in a way you’ve never done before – mindfully, thinking about it, focusing on everything you can sense.

For this, follow these instructions:

  • Open the packet. Inhale the aroma. Let it sweep over you.
  • Break off a piece and look at it. Really let your eyes drink in what it looks like, examining every nook and cranny.
  • Pop it in your mouth. Try to hold it on your tongue and just let it melt, avoiding any tendency to move your mouth around it. Chocolate has over three hundred different flavors. See if you can sense some of them.
  • If you notice your mind wandering while you do this, simply notice where it went, and gently bring it back to the present moment.
  • After the chocolate has completely melted, swallow it very slowly and deliberately. Let it trickle down your throat.
  • Repeat this with the next piece.  [2]

A calm mind is a study-ready mind

Again, we ought to remind you to be easy on yourself. If you don’t see results right away, take your time. Don’t get angry, nervous or irritated –  try to accept things as they are. There’s no point in rushing anything. You’re not facing a deadline, but practicing for your future self.

Do all these exercises slowly, enjoying them, learning things, not worrying about studying. But then, when the time for studying comes, your mind will be ready, focused, and fully awake.

 

If you need any kind of advice related to focus and studying, you’ve come to the right place!

Schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with one of our Coaches:

KEEP READING:

 

[1]   Penman, D. and Williams, M. 2011. Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Pennsylvania: Rodale Books.

[2] Jon Kabat-Zinn. 2005. Wherever You Go, There You Are. New York: Hachette Book.

 

Why is Effective Communication so Important?

Being able to communicate our thoughts, opinions, and wishes has always been important for our survival. Just imagine our cave-dwelling great-grand-ancestors not being able to precisely convey that they really, really do not want to join in on that hunt because their leg is hurting. Next thing they know, they’re running away from a tiger – and not very successfully!

Although most of us don’t need to run from tigers anymore, the skill of clear communication is more important than ever. Thanks to our new technologies, we can now communicate with virtually any person from any place on Earth, and many people do just this on a regular basis, especially if they work for a large corporation [3].  Indeed,  for some people communication itself is the main goal – successful talk-show hosts and writers have mastered this skill to such a degree that simply communicating has become their primary job [3].

Knowing how to present ourselves in a good light and understand the other party well enough to persuade them to help us achieve something is an incredibly important skill to develop. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the benefits of effective communication and offer some ideas on how to hone that skill.

Professional Benefits

Since we’ve already mentioned the importance of communicating in the workplace, let’s tackle the professional aspect of this skill first. Some of the benefits of clear communication in the workplace are:

  1. Fewer mistakes.
  2. Better workplace atmosphere.
  3. Good persuasion skills.

Making Fewer Mistakes

Have you ever been in a situation where your boss or your professor is explaining to you how to do something, but you just can’t seem to understand them? So maybe after asking them to explain it one more time and still not understanding it, you tell yourself, “It’s fine, I’ll do it by myself”, and you end up making a mistake. Or maybe you were too shy to even ask them to explain it to you in the first place!

Either way, the primary cause for your mistake would be the fact that both parties failed to communicate effectively. To begin with, your boss/professor didn’t communicate their expectations in a way you could understand. They are probably speaking from the perspective of somebody who has been doing that task for quite some time, so it’s easy for them to forget the mistakes they were making in the beginning or the challenges they faced then.  Now that they’re more knowledgeable, they simply assume it must be as easy for you to do as it is for them. In other words, they are communicating from their perspective only, without taking your perspective and your context into consideration [2].

Secondly, your fear of communicating your lack of understanding is what might cause you to make a mistake. Not asking for an explanation is something that usually happens when you assume that the person you’re talking to will be annoyed and bored by your questions. But instead, you could have asked them a clarifying question. For example, saying: “Okay, so let me just see if I understood you correctly so I am 100% sure I’ll do it properly” and then repeating the task the way you understood it saves you from asking a million tiny questions. Instead, you just ask one, and if your boss sees a fault in what you said, they’ll let you know.

So in both cases, assumptions of how much someone knows and how they feel about certain things can lead to mistakes. And though it’s sometimes hard to get over that voice in your head that says, “Stop bothering them or they’ll think you’re stupid and unable to do this!”, it’s something we all must work on if we are to be effective communicators and avoid mistakes.

Better Workplace Atmosphere

Imagine your next hypothetical situation. Your colleague or classmate is celebrating their birthday this Friday and they bring muffins for everyone – but you. What’s up with that?! You might naturally think that they don’t like you and don’t want to hang out with you without really checking that hypothesis with them. So the next time they need help from you, you might turn away and ignore them, causing them to not finish their assignment and to feel really bad.

But what if the reason you didn’t get a muffin was because the muffins their mom made for them were all made with peanuts, and they only remembered about your allergies after they started sharing them around? They had been trying to protect you this entire time, and here you were thinking that they hated you!

In that scenario, both of you were lacking proper communication skills. On one hand, they should have apologized to you for forgetting all about your allergies, while you should have asked them if there was something wrong in your relationship the moment you noticed something wasn’t adding up.

If we are looking at this from their perspective, they should have said something like: “I’m very sorry that I don’t have a muffin for you, I completely forgot about your allergies. How about we go grab a coffee later so I can properly apologize?” You could also have helped solve this situation by simply asking them: “Hey, I noticed everyone got a muffin but me, and I’m feeling really left out. Could you tell me why I didn’t get one?” Any of these two explanations would have prevented a further misunderstanding.

Just imagine if a pilot and air traffic control were communicating in such an inefficient and petty way – it wouldn’t be fun, would it [2]?

Good Persuasion Skills

Now now, I’m not trying to teach you how to manipulate the people around you in order to always have things your way. By “persuasion”, I primarily mean marketing skills – and, well, if they also teach you how to convince your friend to help you with your math, that’s not so bad now, is it?

What do you think all great companies have in common? Sure, the most important thing is that they all have something that a lot of people want and can use. But that in itself isn’t enough. If they didn’t have a good, persuasive marketing team, no one would even have heard of them. In this day and age, when new apps, technologies, and inventions are being created every day, having the ability to communicate about your product in an innovative way is what will separate you and your company from the rest of the pack.

And not only that, but in order to sell yourself (not in an illegal way, more like – sell your worth to a university you want to go to or sell your abilities and character to your potential employer) you need to know how to communicate about your strengths and weaknesses in the right way.

Personal Benefits

After reading the first part of the article, you’re probably already aware of the main benefit good communication can give you in your personal life – better and more honest relationships. There are thousands of articles online about the relationships between parents and teenagers and what both sides can do to make them better. But what if I told you that just by changing the way you communicate with each other, you can fix 90% of that relationship?

Instead of snooping around their teenager’s room, parents should be more open and honest about their fears and feelings. Simply saying things like, “I feel sad that you don’t spend as much time at home” or “I’ve been noticing some changes in your behavior and I’m very worried that something may be bothering you” is a hundred times better for a relationship than looking for some sort of proof for your hypothesis. If parents raise their children this way, if they’re not ashamed to tell them they are sad or hurt by something, then they’ll be good role models for their children to do the same once they start having problems.

Tips on Being a Better Communicator

Communication is far more than just what you say, it’s also how you act. Non-verbal signals such as facial expressions or body movements can at times tell us more about what someone really feels than any words they might be saying [2]. If your parents are nagging you about that C you received and you keep saying how you feel sorry about it, all the while rolling your eyes with your arms crossed, they probably won’t be inclined to believe you.

What you communicate with your words and your body language needs to be in sync in order for your message to get through. And not only that, you need to take into consideration your previous communication with someone [1].  For example, if you’re prone to sarcasm, no matter how seriously you are now speaking to them, they might be nodding their heads suspiciously. Instead of simply saying what you want to say and getting angry when they don’t believe you, it’s a good idea to remember your previous interactions and maybe predict their reaction. This is especially important if something big is at stake – say, you want to ask your professor for extra credit, but they don’t really think much of you after you’ve been late for 70% of their classes. Taking their perspective and feelings into consideration is a great first step to start communicating better [2].

You could start by saying, “Look, I know I’m always being sarcastic, but I really need your help with this now”, or “Professor, I’m sorry for always being late. It was really irresponsible of me, but in order to get into the university I really want, I’ll  need some extra credit from your class. Is there anything I can do to make that happen?”

Communication is an amazing ability. We can communicate through words, hands, drawings, even eyes. And yet, we so often tend to repeat the same behavior. If a wife is angry with her husband, she’ll keep yelling at him and he’ll keep withdrawing. Even though they can both see it’s not getting them anywhere, it’s easier to fall into their usual pattern of communication rather than to try and change it.

But if we dare change that script, it will make our lives not only easier, but more beautiful and fulfilled as well. So start today! If you’ve had a fight with someone recently, or if you keep having fights about the same thing, think about which part of your communication is falling short. Take their point of view into consideration and try to alter your communication style. After all, there are infinite ways of doing that.

References:

  1. Bowdish, R. (2018). The Importance of Communication. Master of Arts in English Plan II Graduate Projects.
  2. Burgoon, J.K., Berger, C.R., & Waldron, V.R. (2000). Mindfulness and Interpersonal Communication. Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 56, No.1, pp. 105-127.
  3. Morreale, S.P., & Pearson, J.C. (2008). Why Communication Education is Important: The Centrality of the Discipline in the 21st Century. Communication Education Vol. 57, No. 2, pp. 224-240

Back to School: How to Be Prepared

It’s that time of year already! Whether you’re ready or not, summer break is over and school has started. Since going back to school is often a bit scary, we want to help prepare you to crush this school year!

How to prepare for going back to school?

So, how can you ready yourself mentally and physically for a new, successful school year?

Get enough sleep.

Sometimes we underestimate the value of sleep but sleep has effects on performance. It involves a range of complex functions associated with memory, the ability to learn, brain development, immune functioning, etc. So try to sleep at least eight to nine hours every night. While this might not always be realistic, do try to respect your sleep schedule!

Prepare everything you need the day before.

Pack your bag and choose your clothes the day before, so you don’t have to worry about it next morning and won’t have to rush. You’ll have time to think about the things you want to do that day, have breakfast, and get ready on time.

Be there 15 minutes early.

And while we’re talking about time… Don’t be late! It’s an annoying habit and you know that. The best way not to be late is to get to school 15 minutes early every day.

Study routine.

Establish your studying/homework routine. This will help you concentrate, memorize, and recall information faster and more effectively.

Be organized.

Write down all your due dates on a calendar template and review it daily as a study guide. Make a plan for how you’ll achieve everything you want to and stick to it. This helps with focusing time and energy on tasks you need to complete, and you can track your progress and make adjustments as necessary.

Planner and a yellow marker pen

It’s okay to be afraid

Have you had negative thoughts – for example, of having a test you didn’t study for that are coming back all over again? Do you have trouble falling asleep or you’re waking up frequently during the night? What about nightmares? Maybe you have none of these symptoms, but you still feel school-related nervousness.  However, there are ways to beat it!

Remember you’re not alone.

Many students feel that way and have the same worries that you do. It’s not unusual to experience some anxiety facing the new school year, even more so if you’re moving up to middle school, high school, or college. These “big changes”can be really difficult, but certainly manageable.

Don’t forget to breathe.

If you feel very anxious and don’t know what to do or how to stop it, just breathe. Try to find a place where you can be alone, close your eyes, and breathe slowly. Here’s a good exercise that is called 4 7 8 breathing:

  1. For 4 seconds inhale silently through your nose.
  2. Then, count to seven as you hold your breath.
  3. Next, exhale completely through your mouth for eight seconds.

You can also use this exercise if you have trouble falling asleep.

Talk about it.

Sometimes the best way to face a fear is to say it out loud. So if you have any fear, or you feel nervous, anxious, and/or sad, share it. Share your feelings and your fears with someone you’re close to. For example, a friend is a good choice – they might be feeling the same way and you can talk it through together.

However, if you have trouble adapting to school for more than the first week or two and it’s affecting your everyday life, talk with your family and friends and consider asking for help.

School is cool

Even though you’re a bit nervous and a little bit fearful facing a new school year, you can also look forward to some great new experiences. These are a few reasons why School is Cool.

  1.      New people.

The new school year is a good chance to meet new people! Why is that so good? Those people may become your friends (or a crush, right?).

  1.      Friends.

Seeing classmates after a few months is great, isn’t it? You can finally hug them and talk about how you spent your summer break and what’s new. Friends are also a great support that all of us need from time to time. Even if you experience some anxiety in social situations, you now have a fresh chance to make connections and to work on maintaining a sense of calm while joining in new experiences.

  1.      New, interesting things to learn.

There’s plenty of new things to learn and you may be surprised by what you’ll find to interest you! Also, there’s a wide variety of opportunities available for you at school which may be beneficial in your future career. Leadership in a student organization is a good example of that.

  1.      Extracurricular activities.

Have you already found your favorite one? If you did, congratulations! Keep doing a great job! However, if you didn’t, here’s a chance to try different extracurricular activities and find out what you like and what your passion is. There are many benefits to joining a choir or a basketball team. Also, you can meet new people and learn many interesting things there!

Is Playing Video Games Good or Bad for Children?

“You know what’s really exciting about video games is you don’t just interact with the game physically—you’re not just moving your hand on a joystick, but you’re asked to interact with the game psychologically and emotionally as well. You’re not just watching the characters on screen; you’re becoming those characters.” – Nina Huntemann, Game Over

Video games have become an integral part of popular culture, as well as one of the largest industries in the United States. They are a topic of extensive discussion, especially in the media. For more than a decade now, a vast majority of children in the United States engage in playing video games during childhood. Results of a nationally representative study of U.S. teenagers show us that 99% of boys and 94% of girls play video games [1].

Most young kids see video games as a social activity, rather than an isolating one, and they believe video games are a great way to spend time with their peers or even make new friends. While children often don’t see anything wrong with their engagement in video games, and like them because they are fun, exciting, and challenging, parents may worry about the potential negative effects they may have. Some parents may prefer that their children invest their time in other activities out of concern that video games could encourage violence and procrastination, which in turn could lead to neglect of school commitments, and even the development of addiction. In the aftermath of a violent incident or a display of antisocial behavior, the media often links the behavior to video-game use, and paints them as the cause, sometimes regardless of any correlation, which is why parents in turn focus more attention on the potential dangers of video games rather than their benefits. In this way, media can add fuel to the fire without really tackling the issue, leading parents to forget that games are today a normal part of modern childhood and to start believing their children shouldn’t be playing games at all, which can create conflict between them.

On the flip side, some psychologists suggest that video games can actually have many benefits, especially bearing in mind that “the nature of these games has changed dramatically in the last decade, becoming increasingly complex, diverse, realistic, and social in nature” [1, 2]. So, in order to understand the impact video games have on children’s development, we need to look at both the positive and the negative effects of these games.

Benefits of Video Games

Problem solving and decision-making skills

Games usually include some puzzles or other problem situations that players need to solve in order to get to the next level. Playing a game such as The Incredible Machine, Machinarium, Angry Birds or Cut the Rope, makes for an excellent workout for children’s minds as they have to use their logic skills and creativity in order to achieve a goal; they have to search, plan, and experiment with different approaches in order to solve puzzles and deal with other problems. Some scientists believe that video games could be used as training tools to develop quicker decision-making. They showed that video-games players had heightened sensitivity towards their environment and were able to make correct decisions more quickly than people who didn’t play games [3].

Hand-eye coordination, fine motor and spatial skills

Some games require the real-world players to keep track of the position of a character, where they are heading and at what speed, at the same time as they must keep an eye on diverse stimuli. The player has to take into account all these factors and then coordinate the brain’s interpretation with the movement of his hands. In order to accomplish all of this, the player requires a great deal of eye-hand coordination and the utilization of visual-spatial ability. Research suggests that people who play video games have better visual-spatial attention skills and are more successful in visual processing of images than non-gamers [5,6]. Meta-analysis studies show that, by playing video games, spatial skills can be acquired in a relatively short time, and that the results are often comparable to formal training designed to enhance the same skills [7]. This effect is well-known, as, nowadays, pilots and surgeons are being trained on video games (you can check out the game which is a validated training tool for laparoscopic motor skills, right here).

Multitasking skills

Being able to effectively and quickly switch between two or more tasks is an important skill in life. It’s been suggested that video games may enhance one’s ability to apprehend and track many shifting variables and manage multiple objectives. Some researchers report that children who played video games performed significantly better compared to other children on a version of the multiple-object tracking task [4]. This multitasking ability can especially be seen in strategy games where a player must take care of lots of different buildings and units and can encounter many unexpected surprises, which forces them to be flexible and change tactics quickly and accordingly.

Negative Effects of Video Games on Children

Aggression in Children

It’s a widespread concern that violent video games promote aggression, reduce prosocial behavior, increase impulsivity, and have a negative effect on children’s mood. Parents are afraid that this is yet another form of media, besides TV shows, movies, comics, etc., where children can encounter violence daily and become desensitized to it. By now, much research has been conducted showing that playing violent video games increases aggression in children, leading to a lack of empathy and prosocial behavior [8]. These studies are usually conducted by having children play an aggressive game (e.g. Grand Theft Auto) and assessing their aggression afterwards. On the other hand, there is also a lot of research that provided evidence of video games having only immediate and short-term effects on aggression, or even that they have the opposite effect – they make children less aggressive, and that, in the long term, video games are not promoting or causing aggression in players in their offline lives [9].

It is still unclear if playing aggressive games really does cause the player to become aggressive. Some would argue that it’s not that games that are making people aggressive, it’s just that gamers who already have aggressive tendencies are more attracted to these kinds of games. If you’re a parent and you have a concern that your child is showing aggressive behavior and is unwilling to talk to you about it, you might want to consider talking with a parent with a similar problem, or even try to find someone who has expertise in the subject.

Gaming Addiction

There is no doubt that video games can indeed be highly addictive, as they can lead to behavioral dependency characterized by an excessive or compulsive use of computer or video games, which can interfere with one’s everyday life.

While it may be controversial, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognized “a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior” as a disorder in June, 2018. In order for a diagnosis to be assigned, the behavioral pattern should be evident over a period of at least 12 months, and should result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational, or other areas of functioning. Gaming Disorder is manifested by [10]:

  1. Impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context)
  2. Increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities
  3. Continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences

On the other hand, the American Psychological Association (APA) concluded that there is not sufficient evidence to determine whether the condition is a unique mental disorder, but they are subjecting gaming to further research (along with caffeine-use disorder and several others) [11].

We can also talk about the consequences that investing too much time in playing games can have on some of the important aspects of children’s lives.

Poor academic performance. This is one of the negative consequences of extended and reckless engagement in video games. As with any activity, if children are devoting a lot of their time to playing video games, their school performance can be affected as they’ll have less time for their school obligations. There’s an obvious correlation between these two.

Adverse effects on health. Video games also have an indirect effect on physical health, if children are choosing video games over physical activity (here you can read our take on why children should take up sports). Children who are too invested in games can easily skip meals or even sleep in order to play the games they like.

What’s the Verdict? Are Video Games Good or Bad?

Video games are neither good nor bad. Technically, video games are just games with a visual component, and can be more social and distracting due to constant availability. They can be used as powerful teaching and skill-honing tools but can also be over-used and have an overwhelming effect on a child’s life if they frequently get angry and frustrated while playing games. It all comes down to appropriate and moderate use. Video games are fun and can sometimes enrich a person’s life and create happiness, but they shouldn’t be used as a substitute for living your own life outside a video game.

Young children especially have problems with this line, so parents need to help them by providing understanding, support, and guidance while also imposing rules when necessary. We’ll now take a look at just how parents can help children maximize the benefits of video games while minimizing their potential harm.

Parents as Mediators in Children’s Gaming Life

– Take the time to get to know your children’s habits around video games, but also do the research and know about the content and rating of the video games they play. Try talking with them about their feelings and observations about the games they play in order to understand what drives them to play them.

– Set limits on how long and how often your children can play games, and make sure they do it in their spare time, after finishing their homework or chores around the house. Monitor your child’s video game consumption while also showing respect and a willingness to understand their playing time. Modern online games often don’t have a pause button, and currently many popular games are matches played with other people, in real time. So try talking with your child to set up more appropriate restrictions; for example, it might be more appropriate to make a deal and say “1 game” instead of “30 minutes”.

– Find a game you can play together, as this can be a good bonding activity for the whole family. If they know more about a particular game than you, you can act as their pupil and see how good they are in the role of teacher. Here you can find some games to play with children of different ages.

– Try to use video games to increase children’s school engagement by motivating them to learn through games. There is a large number of educational games to choose from which can help with learning, math, history, etc. Having fun while studying makes children persistent and less likely to quit, as some video games are capable of making difficult subjects fun and easy to understand. If you’re unsure about mixing technology and education, you should definitely read our article on this subject.

– If you’re afraid that your child is addicted to playing video games, try to help them recognize their compulsive behavior. Encourage them not to feel guilty or ashamed and be patient with them. If you have trouble communicating how you feel about them excessively playing games, don’t be embarrassed or scared to ask for help. Here on Nobel Coaching & Tutoring, we have amazing Coaches who can help you with this.

References:

  1. Granic, I., Lobel, A., & Engels, R. C. (2014). The benefits of playing video games. American Psychologist, 69(1), 66.
  2. Ferguson, C. J., & Olson, C. K. (2013). Friends, fun, frustration and fantasy: Child motivations for video game play. Motivation and Emotion, 37(1), 154-164.
  3. Green, C. S., Pouget, A., & Bavelier, D. (2010). Improved probabilistic inference as a general learning mechanism with action video games. Current Biology, 20(17), 1573-1579.
  4. Trick, L. M., Jaspers-Fayer, F., & Sethi, N. (2005). Multiple-object tracking in children: The “Catch the Spies” task. Cognitive Development, 20(3), 373-387.
  5. Green, C. S., & Bavelier, D. (2006). Effect of action video games on the spatial distribution of visuospatial attention. Journal of experimental psychology: Human perception and performance, 32(6), 1465.
  6. Green, C. S., & Bavelier, D. (2007). Action-video-game experience alters the spatial resolution of vision. Psychological science, 18(1), 88-94.
  7. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/media-spotlight/201402/are-there-benefits-in-playing-video-games
  8. Anderson, C. A., Shibuya, A., Ihori, N., Swing, E. L., Bushman, B. J., Sakamoto, A., … & Saleem, M. (2010). Violent video game effects on aggression, empathy, and prosocial behavior in Eastern and Western countries: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 136(2), 151.
  9. Kühn, S., Kugler, D. T., Schmalen, K., Weichenberger, M., Witt, C., & Gallinat, J. (2018). Does playing violent video games cause aggression? A longitudinal intervention study. Molecular psychiatry, 1.
  10. https://icd.who.int/browse11/l-m/en#/http://id.who.int/icd/entity/1448597234
  11. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/internet-gaming

Mindfulness While Studying

As we have written before, there are plenty of proven benefits to mindfulness – that state of active consciousness and open attention, reached through the process of meditation – especially for students and learners.  Not only can meditation and meditative thinking help with stress reduction, but practicing being in the moment can greatly improve focus and productivity.

However, mindfulness is not just meditation – it’s a process to reach a state of present mind through an entire mindset that can include meditation, breathing practices, mind exercises, and habit-releasers (everyday tasks “meant to reveal and break open some of our most unaware life patterns of thought and behaviour” [1]).

Because of this complexity, you should not expect instant benefits from just a few mindfulness practices. In their book Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World, Danny Penman and Mark Williams suggest an eight-week program through which you change your day-to-day life and thoughts gradually over a course of two months for best mindfulness effect.

However, if this seems too much for you, if you’re not really sure it can help you, or you need an “instant fix” because your exams are almost upon you, we’ve chosen a few practices that will help you during studying itself. These small exercises, meditations, and habit-releasers are meant to improve focus, stop negative thoughts that interrupt your work, and help you stay in the moment, consciously going through the study material.

So, who knows – after these, maybe you’ll be convinced that the eight-week program is worth it!

Cutting down the frustration and impatience

We all have those moments when we can’t seem to concentrate and our study progress seems minimal. The usual reaction is to get frustrated and get caught in a thought loop – being frustrated by lack of productivity, then being frustrated because we’re frustrated by it, therefore wasting more time and…. well, you get the point.

That’s why the point of this exercise is to let go of that anger and frustration and gain control over your emotions simply by realizing they are there and that they are normal. If you rationalize your emotions, chances are they aren’t going to stand in your way that much while studying, so you can concentrate better on the mental process.

When you find yourself tangled up in anger, do a quick check-up and ask yourself

  • What is going through my mind?
  • What sensations are there in my body?
  • What emotional reactions and impulses am I aware of?

Then, try to allow frustration to be present without trying to make it go away. Stand tall. Breathe. Allow yourself to feel. Accept that this, too, is a moment in your life.

You might not instantly stop being frustrated, but the point of mindfulness is not to ignore unpleasant feelings, rather to accept them. This way, you can stop obsessing over trying to change them and focus more on why you’re feeling that way, and getting on with the task at hand.

Body and brain connection

If you find your body restless and fidgety, showing signs of nervousness (twitching, legs jumping, heart racing…) it might be an indication that your mind’s stress is showing up physically and you need to concentrate on calming the body-brain connection.

With these few tricks you can focus on your physical processes, soothe your nervousness, and prepare your body for studying, by connecting it fully to the brain and mind processes, while being in the best possible physical position for concentrating.

There’s no point in continuing to study while you’re not focused, so take a short break. Before you say that you have no time for breaks, think if it’s more beneficial to do unproductive work and waste time, or to take a short 15-minute break, and then continue working with full focus.

The first thing you can do is “ground” yourself. This means doing a meditation that is designed to settle your body as well as your brain. One useful method is body-scan meditation, which pays attention to all the parts of your body, relaxing them and learning to let go. If your body relaxes, you’ll be in better posture to study and focus, relaxing your brain as well.

You can also try grounding yourself by changing your position to a more meditative one. Perhaps you can try moving into a yoga position and doing a short breathing exercise. Sit on the floor with your legs in front of you, and then, slowly, move your right foot to the left thigh. Do the same with the left foot. Try to move your feet as close to the base of the thighs as you can and do everything very slowly, thinking about each move [2]. When you’re in this posture, breathe slowly and focus on movements of the body. If it’s comfortable, you can even try reading in this position.

The second thing you can do is go for a meditative walk, lasting somewhere between fifteen and thirty minutes. You don’t have to go anywhere special, just walk around your neighborhood, paying extra attention to details you haven’t noticed before – small things, like the birds or leaves on the trees. The walk doesn’t even have to take place in nature – you can go out in the city to walk and just look up at the facades of the buildings you’ve never noticed before. The point is to be mindful of your surroundings, to focus on details and to see new things, or even familiar ones in a different light. Stop by that tree you always pass by and think about its texture, its colors and its scent. Are there any birds in it? Inwardly name every color you see on it, touch the texture of the wood and tell yourself how it feels. While you’re walking, pay attention to your whole body – how it moves whenever you take a step, what muscles do the work, and which stay still, what sensations you feel, how the floor feels, what your legs do, etc.

This whole exercise will help you move your muscles while walking, but also transfer your focus onto  your surroundings and away from your physical nervousness. The huge thing is that it is also good for practicing focus, so once you’re back at your books, you might notice that you look at the information in front of you in a new light.

Finally, doing a simple yoga routine can also help. There are plenty of videos with practices online, so you can try them out.

And remember…

Don’t be too harsh with yourself and accept your limits. Take a break if things are not working and exercise your focus whenever you can.

The key to meditation as well as the whole mindfulness program is not “not thinking” – it is simply being aware of your thoughts and channeling them properly. Guided meditation says that if you notice your thoughts flying away, don’t scold yourself; that is what minds do.

 

[1]   Penman, D. and Williams, M. 2011. Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Pennsylvania: Rodale Books.

[2] Wills, P. and Gimbel, T. 1992. 16 Steps to Health and Energy: A Program of Color and Visual Meditation, Movement and Chakra Balance. Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications.

Jon Kabat-Zinn. 2005. Wherever You Go, There You Are. New York: Hachette Book.

 

If you need any kind of advice related to focus and studying, you’ve come to the right place!

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The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: You Create Your Future

If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right. – Henry Ford

Have you ever studied for a test and thought to yourself: This is too difficult, I’m not going to pass this test and exactly that happened – you failed? In that moment, you probably concluded you were right. But why was it that your prediction was proven correct? The answer to that question is the self-fulfilling prophecy.

What is the self-fulfilling prophecy?

A self-fulfilling prophecy is simply the physical outcome of a situation being influenced by our thinking. It can be both positive and negative [2, 3]. This phenomenon describes how our identity shapes how we act and communicate. We’ll explain it this way…

Studying for the test

Let’s say a student is facing that test we mentioned. He’s anxious and is convinced he’s destined to fail. So he spends more time worrying than studying. He may also procrastinate – hang out, watch movies, text, etc. Yet he probably thinks he studied the whole day. He does poorly in the exam, a consequence of the negative thinking that interfered with his studying – thus, a self-fulfilling prophecy..

So, now let’s imagine the same test scenario, but this time the student predicts he’s going to pass the test with flying colors. He’s really focused on studying, puts in the necessary effort, and doesn’t procrastinate.  He may even ask a friend for help if he needs it. He passes the test and gets an A!  Here we have a different thinking pattern, with consequent actions and a positive outcome.

These may be extreme examples, but each reflects the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy. So now we can see that a self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction or expectation that comes true simply because one acts as if it were true [1]. However, not only do we ourselves buy into the expectation that makes us act in a certain way, so do the people with whom we communicate.

The self-fulfilling-prophecy cycle

Have you ever been invited to a party you didn’t want to go to because you expected to have a terrible time? If you were, is it possible that your prediction of having a very bad time increased the likelihood of its occurrence?

Imagine this prophecy as a cycle with five basic steps [1]:

  1. You form expectations of yourself, others, or events – for example, you may think – Emma won’t like me.
  2. You express those expectations verbally or nonverbally – so I`ll keep my distance from her.
  3. Others adjust their behavior and communication to match your messages – Emma thinks you’re convinced that you`re superior and decided not to talk to you.
  4. Your expectations become reality – you may conclude that Emma actually doesn’t like you.
  5. The confirmation strengthens your belief – every time you see Emma, you’re reminded that she doesn’t like you.

Feeling bad and unlikable is an unwelcome outcome, but it doesn’t have to be like this! More positive beliefs that lead to different behaviors could bring about the desired outcome.

Now, let’s imagine a positive self-fulfilling-prophecy cycle. You can’t wait to go to a friend’s party. There is Emma and you hope she’ll like you. When you see her, you approach her and make small talk. Emma is having fun and thinks that you’re interesting. You see that she likes you and you’ll be happy to meet up with her again.

How to break the cycle of the negative self-fulfilling prophecy

The cycle of the self-fulfilling prophecy frequently has an unfavorable outcome, but that isn’t always the case. Some people use it to their own advantage [2, 3]. Here are some ways to break a negative, vicious cycle and create a positive one.

Be aware of the self-fulfilling prophecy.

Now that you know how our expectations can impact our behavior and that of those around us, you should keep that in mind in both your self-talk and when you talk to others.

Change your beliefs.

You are your own ego breaker or maker. Break with old ways of thinking and update the way you think about yourself. Replace negative self-talk and upsetting mental pictures with objectively more accurate expectations. Practice your positive self-talk, be optimistic about yourself and your performance!

Work on your self-esteem.

When we have low self-esteem we may have lower expectations than what is reasonable. If we think we’ll fail, it might seem outlandish to believe we could pass a test, but that’s exactly why we need to adjust our thinking. Focus on who you want to be/what you want to do, and not on your current expectations.

Fake it.

In the beginning, if you’re struggling with negative thoughts, just fake it – fake it until you make it. As you practice positive thinking, your behavior will change as well. Remember that making this change may be uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean you’re being less yourself. It’s not an all-or-nothing thing –  you’re just adjusting your behavior to match your values.

Change your language.

Try to avoid using absolute words such as never, always, I can`t, and hate. Vicious cycles usually include those words. Instead, replace them with neutral or positive words and phrases, such as I`ll give it my best. Thus, instead of thinking negative thoughts, say to yourself I can do this.

Surround yourself with people who believe in you.

How others treat us influences the person we think we are. Choose the people you surround yourself with. Over time, they will convince you and a magical process of fulfilling these expectations will be launched.

Take your time.

Changing your thought patterns is a process which takes a lot of time, consistency, and persistence. Be patient with yourself! When you recognize an unproductive thought pattern, stop, re-group, and begin again.

References:

[1] Gamble, T. K., & Gamble, M. W. (2013). Interpersonal communication: Building connections together. Sage Publications.

[2] Merton, R. K. (1948). The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. The Antioch Review,8(2), 193-208. doi:10.2307/4609267

[3] Merton, R. K (1968). Social Theory and Social Structure. New York: Free Press.

 

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