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Math Is Difficult, but Far from Impossible

Maryke K. is a  Nobel Tutor. She knows a lot about Chemistry, Physics, English Language, and Statistics, but one of her greatest loves is Math! She makes math fun (yes, it’s possible!) and finds the best way for students to learn it. Here she answers common questions about math and shares her personal experience in learning it.

 

Question: Let’s begin with fun stuff. What is the best math joke you’ve ever heard?

Maryke: What do you get when you cross a mosquito with a mountain climber?

You can’t cross a vector and a scalar… (laugh).

 

Q: Can you tell us how did you end up falling in love with mathematics? How did you become the math tutor?

M: From an early age, math has been fascinating to me. Because of that, I focused on it and worked hard. As I began sharing my knowledge with others, I discovered that mathematics was a path to helping people, and that’s what I love to do! And that’s why I became a tutor.

 

Q: Even though some people, like you, enjoy mathematics, there are others who find it hard. Based on your experience, why do some students fall behind in math?

M: Some people have a natural aptitude for mathematics, but that’s not the reason why others fall behind. I think the reason they do fall behind is they need it explained in a different way and there isn’t always time to do this in a classroom setting.

That’s why math tutoring exists! Not because you don’t have the ability to do math, but because a tutor is usually a few years older than you and they were in your shoes a few years before. So it’s easy to relate and find a great way to explain the unexplainable.

 

Q: Is there anything you’d recommend to those students? How should they study math?

M: If you don’t get math, just like anything else you don’t like, you’re going to have to motivate yourself.

Still, what I used to do is play. When I was younger, up to 6th grade, I would use computer games. I played educational games which meant I had to constantly do math in my head. Because of that, and by really putting thought into it, I made math fun, linking it to games.

So how you should study math? You find the fun in math and keep practicing. If you’re not good at it, practice is the only way to fix that.

 

Q: You’ve already mentioned teachers. Do you think that if you don’t understand math, maybe you have the wrong teacher?

M: It’s not about the teacher all the time, it’s usually about their workload. You can’t put a workload of 40 students on a teacher and expect every one of them is going to be catered to.

I think that everybody should be able to get tutoring. But since not everybody can afford a tutor, perhaps ask a friend who’s good at math to help you with the things you’re having difficulty with. You just need to have the additional help.

I come from a very humble background. I begged my parents to get me tutoring because despite having good grades, I needed even better grades to enroll in this program I wanted to get into. But we couldn’t afford it. The only help I had was reading math books and learning it by myself. That still wasn’t enough. I feel that if I had been in a smaller class, if my teachers could have catered to me specifically, then I would’ve had even better marks.. But it just wasn’t in the cards.

So I worked with a friend who was good at math and we made sure we helped each other. I did that my whole university career – we’d teach each other those concepts that we mightn’t otherwise understand.. We’d just work together and help each other. I feel everybody should do that because there’s always something that you don’t understand. So let the students be the teachers, as well.

 

Q: Some people believe that being good at math is a natural ability. What do you think about that? Can anybody be good at math?

M: I don’t think everybody can be good at math. However, I think everybody can do it. You just need the right way, the fun way to approach it.

There’s always going to be someone who gets 100% no matter what – someone with the natural aptitude. It may seem like you’ll never be as good as that person, but you can do it! You just need to accept that you have to practice a lot more than they do.

So, you can be good, but you have to practice. Practice as much as you can and eventually results will come.

 

Q: Natural talent vs. hard work. Do you think that people who aren’t naturally good at math but practice a lot eventually can become better at it than people who are naturally good but don’t practice?

M: Yes, that was me! I fell behind in my first year of engineering because I was like, This is going to be so easy! And all those people who were a little bit weaker than me in high school, were surpassing me. They were doing so much better than I was!

That’s because at some point math catches up with you. You might think it’s easy now, but there will be a time when you don’t understand anything. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way, so you don’t need to.

 

Q: What is your approach to teaching math?

M: Making it fun. I’m a very outgoing person and I always try to make people think of a fun way to go about something. I use visuals, I use tricks, I use anything that might make something entertaining and interesting!

No matter what your learning challenge is, what your skill is, it has to be fun!

 

Q: How do you choose between being an authority figure and a friend?

M: I think balance is the key. You need to be both an authority figure and a friend. I do believe my students respect me, but I also believe I open this door into letting them talk to me about their personal problems, not just focusing on math.

You need to listen to the challenges they have as that can affect their learning as well. For example, if their dog dies and they just don’t feel like doing math today, take things easier.

Being their teacher doesn’t mean you can’t be their friend. You just need to evaluate when that is appropriate. They’ll learn to trust you, and then they will respect you.

MAKE MATH FUN WITH MARYKE

She can’t wait to meet new friends!

 

Q: Does fun make math easy? Do you find mathematics easy overall?

M: Math is never easy. I have an engineering degree and when I was doing models I failed the math model. Yes, that thing destroyed me (laugh).

Now I’m doing a mathematics degree. I’m in my final year now and I’m realizing that math is always difficult. If you’re in that spot, it’s going to be hard. Right now, final-year math is unbelievably difficult, but first-year math was also unbelievably difficult. Math will always be difficult. It’s up to you to practice and find a way to understand it. So practice, practice, practice.

 

Q: Do you have any advice for parents to help their students with math?

M: Don’t start too late. I wish my parents had started earlier in letting me have fun with mathematics. I did start early, earlier than most people. But if they’d started even earlier, I feel that I would’ve been further ahead right now.

You need to make sure your kids are exposed to this environment. Let them play puzzles, let them play logic games when they’re very young. Because it opens a door for problem-solving skills and so on.

Make it fun and start early. But don’t overdo it. so that they start to hate it. Like anything, if you push your child too much, they’re going to resent it. Make sure you strike a balance between giving them constant stimulation and not overworking them. A great tutor would know how to help in that area, for sure.

 

Q: And if I’m a parent of a student with learning challenges (ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia…), what approach would you recommend for me to help my students with math? What should I do?

M: We all have those times when we’re faced with difficulty that causes anxiety. So did I. I know it’s not the same as ADHD, but it does pose a challenge when it comes to learning. One way to deal with it is to learn how to study despite the difficulty. Wishing it away won’t help, but finding a way to figure things out will.

What I would actually do was enjoy some free time but then dedicate 10 minutes to some math homework. It forced me to think about it, but not overwhelm myself. Of course, if you have a lot of homework you might need to up that to 15, 20 minutes. Some people will go up to 30 minutes or more, but if you constantly push a child they’re just going to completely resist.

If you’re helping your child with math, you need to make sure they’re not overwhelmed and that you are making it, again, fun. They need to have that feeling of I really want to solve these logic puzzles.

Also, I’ve always told my mom she needs to reward my brother, because my brother was a very, lazy boy when it came to math.The way she got him to finish his math was by giving him rewards. He has ADHD, and the reward for finishing was time playing computer games. And he would be so excited! Because that’s what children like to do, including me (laugh).

So,give them rewards, make it fun, and don’t make it too intensive!

 

Q: Why do we need math? Do we really need to know algebra, geometry, integers..? Why does math matters in the real world?

M: The things you’ll use depend on the field in which you’ll work. I don’t think you’ll need all the complex formulae and stuff.

But the basic reason everybody needs math is for logical reasoning. If you know math, you build a certain skill when it comes to reasoning with people, when it comes to logical thinking, solving problems at work in the future… So even though you don’t need quadratic equations, you still need to build these skills to be able to function in life and today’s world.

Long answer short, reasoning in real life and problem-solving skills.

 

Q: What are the uses of math? Are there any benefits to knowing math for a future career? What are applied-mathematics jobs?

M: As I’ve said, reasoning and problem-solving but not just that. For example, you’ll use it if you’re an animator. You’ll need math to put things together in a program and work through possible problems you might encounter when you animate different things. The same would apply to working as a game designer, It doesn’t mean that if you’re not good in math you can’t go into these areas. However, knowing math can be helpful.

Additionally, think about engineering, architecture, law… each requires logical reasoning, (especially law) and a background in mathematics.  Computer science, astronautics, the visual arts (such as painting).

 

Q: What message would you like to leave with our young readers?

M: Mathematics is always useful, so practice it and study it. You’ll use it in any career you choose. You’ll use it in the future just by practicing reasoning and in everyday activities that you need to think about.

However, if you’re not good at math, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to be successful. If math is not going to be your career, you just need to find someone who can help you with logical reasoning so you can have a foundation to build on in your future life.

Math can be very useful and if you can’t figure it out on your own, there are great tutors to help!

IF YOU NEED ADDITIONAL HELP WITH MATHEMATICS OR ANY OTHER SUBJECT, OUR EXPERT TUTORS ARE HERE FOR YOU

 

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:

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[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.

 

Slipping Down the Summer Slide – Summer Learning Loss

For school-age children, summer has a special charm – it means a two-months-long break with no schoolwork! Of course, what children don’t realize is the negative effect a break of this length can have on them in the long run.

The phenomenon called “summer slide” is being talked about more and more now, and for good reason. What actually occurs for children during summer break is summer learning loss – they forget what they learned during the school year and lose learning habits, so once they’re back in school, it takes weeks, or even months, to get back on track.

Summer learning loss is not the same for every child or evident in every subject. It’s been shown that  the loss is greatest in mathematics and that the most affected element is computation. Spelling is also greatly impacted. Therefore, children will most likely suffer more in the areas of factual and procedural knowledge than in conceptual understanding. Also, as children get older, the effect of the summer loss is more evident [1]. We tend to think older children and teenagers can “fight” the effects of  the summer slide on their own, yet without guidance and help there is a huge loss during the summer break, especially as they begin to build up more resistance towards advice from adults.

Summer learning loss is not the same for every child or evident in every subject. It is proven the loss is greatest in mathematics and that the most affected element is computation. Spelling is also greatly impacted. Therefore, children will most likely suffer more in the areas of factual and procedural knowledge than in conceptual understanding. Also, as children get older, the effect of the summer loss is more evident [1]. We think older children and teenagers can “fight” effects of the summer slide on their own, yet without guidance and help there is a huge loss during the summer time, especially as they begin to build up more resistance towards the advice of the adults.

Learning is a continuous process and every interruption can affect it and slow it down. That is why among the solutions that scientists and educators offer is having the school year extended to be year round. The debate as to the efficacy of this idea is ongoing, but clearly the summer break does provide time for children to learn new things. Professor Peter Grey says: “So, take away summer, and we will produce lots of graduates who know how to do calculations but have no idea why anyone would do them other than to pass a test” [2].

So how can you help your child avoid summer learning loss, and maybe even establish better use for the knowledge gained at school by combining it with new things? We’re here to offer you some practical advice on how to prevent your child “sliding down” this summer.

 

How to “fight” the summer slide

One study showed that something as simple as text-messaging interventions to parents over the summer break can help with the summer slide. Parents were sent texts with signals (information about summer learning loss), and ideas and tips for working over the summer with their children. Results showed these interventions had a positive effect on third and fourth graders [3]. This suggests that with simple, low-cost effort from both school and parents, summer slide can be prevented.

Yet you don’t need the school SMS reminders and ideas to remember to help your children. If you want to help them study and not lose needed skills during the break, be there for them and come up with fun activities you can do together or separately, while also leaving time for them to have fun on their own.

Make a calendar As seen in the above study, having a reminder and set ideas is half of the work. Try to make working with your child as structured as possible – Monday can be for a new vocabulary word, Tuesday, a real-life practical math challenge, Wednesday can be for reading along, etc. This will simplify the work, save your time and make it routine.

School and community programs: School programs are usually every parent’s first idea, so spots tend to fill up really quickly. That is why we advise you to look around your community and different community centers for various fun programs your child can participate in. There is a wide spectrum of Boy and Girl Scouts activities, youth-at-risk programs, athletics, environmental projects, volunteer programs, etc [4]. While some of them have a lower “study” component than others – like volunteering – they can certainly help your child build up work habits, learn some new, fun activity and stay engaged. While scouting or volunteering, your child can use the school-free time for acquiring some valuable life knowledge that can help them a great deal in the future.

Importance of reading: The summer is a perfect time to visit your local library with your child! Together, you can make a summer reading list – the child can select books that seem interesting, and you can add in some that you find worthwhile. On top of that, encourage your children, especially younger ones, to constantly read something – even the newspaper, food recipes, and TV guides are valuable! The goal is to read often, and also to read aloud as much as possible [5].

Be there for your child: As mentioned, parent help is incredibly valuable in preventing summer slide. That’s why you should first encourage your child to make a summer journal of things they learn every day. This way you can follow their journey and see how it works, and they can track their success as well, getting even more motivated to continue. When designing a reading program, be sure to choose books to read together. Make everyday activities you do together into a learning process – while driving, you can ask them about colors and shapes and patterns [6], and if the child is older, you can practice a bit of orientation or geography along the way. The key is to follow their progress, see what they lack in their summer program and make it all as fun as possible.

Finding help in coaching: Most parents have very busy agendas and have summer schedule conflicts, so they can’t afford to spend more time during the break to study with their child. This is completely fine, since you can always find someone who can work with them. We can offer you one of our Coaches who have great experience in working with children – you can arrange sessions for your child, and they’ll work on fighting the summer-slide problem! While you should still be there for your child and help them as much as possible, coaching is a great supplement!

 

Summer camps against the slide

One of the more effective and beneficial summer-slide fighters is clearly the summer camp. Through participation in the camp, a child gains new knowledge, meets new friends, enjoys a new environment, and doesn’t suffer significant learning loss, since they’re still exercising their brain and practicing learning habits.

Among the most popular and useful camps are STEM camps, where children can combine their school learning with practical applications and master future-ready skills.

We have created the Nobel Explorers program of online STEM camps, which can be most beneficial in fighting summer slide. International groups of students work together on a variety of interesting and useful projects, combining what they’ve learned in school along with practical and fun knowledge that they won’t find at their desks. There are different types of camps for different ages, so some of the older children might enjoy a camp about start-ups, while younger ones are certainly going to take pleasure in building logic machines in Minecraft.

What is also unique is that our program puts emphasis on soft skills as well, because these are as important for the growth of your children as the STEM aspects. And as the students come from all over the world, the child will have an exceptional opportunity to meet like-minded individuals and make new friends from different cultures. Our programs are affordable for everyone and easily available online, so your child can participate even while on vacation.

With all these options, no one can convince us that the summer break is a waste of time! You have time to make the most out of August, even practice these things when the school year starts. Finally, keep it all in mind for the next summer, set a reminder for the next May, and plan your student’s summer slide prevention activities in time to make it as useful and as fun as possible.

 

[1] Kerry, T., & Davies, B. (1998). Summer learning loss: The evidence and a possible solution. Support for Learning, 13(3), 118-122.

[2]  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/freedom-learn/201707/facts-and-fiction-about-the-so-called-summer-slide

[3] Kraft MA, Monti-Nussbaum M. Can schools enable parents to prevent summer learning loss? A text messaging field experiment to promote literacy skills. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science [Internet]. 2017;674 (1) :85-112.

[4] Kerry, T., & Davies, B. (1998). Summer learning loss: The evidence and a possible solution. Support for Learning, 13(3), 118-122.

[5] https://www.scholastic.com/parents/books-and-reading/reading-resources/developing-reading-skills/three-ways-to-prevent-summer-slide.html

[6]  https://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/ask-dr-lynch/preventing-summer-slide.shtml

 

If you are ready to fight the summer slide with your child, you’ve come to the right place!

Schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with one of our Coaches:

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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.

 

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