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What Is Mindfulness & How Can It Help Me Succeed?

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What does being mindful mean?

Mindfulness has a few different definitions. You may have even heard the one most commonly used, which boils down to a person being present and aware of what’s going on around them. Mindfulness can also mean letting go of negative feelings or taking things for granted. The definition that mindfulness researchers and scientists prefer is that its a way to self-regulate.

Learning to self-regulate refers to ways you can take control of your attention and focus on what you’re doing, as well as being open and curious to new knowledge.

How can mindfulness help you succeed as a student?

You’re juggling work, family life, and more along with your online studies. There’s a lot on your plate and trying to balance it all can feel overwhelming. While you want to continue moving forward in your courses, it’s a struggle to remain focused and motivated with everything else going on. But, before you decide it might be better to give up, give mindfulness (or self-regulation, if you prefer that term) a try! Here’s how the practice can help you keep moving forward and focused on reaching your end goals - graduation and career confidence.

  1. It can help you relieve stress. You know you have a lot going on. Your busy life is one reason you chose to further your education with ICS. Even though you know you can work on your studies and take exams whenever it fits into your schedule, some days feel so jam-packed with work, life, and responsibility that finishing school seems impossible. Practicing mindfulness can help ease the negative effects of stress. In a study published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, researchers found that using the concepts of mindfulness and meditation helped subjects reduce negative self-image and increased their tolerance to power through less than good days.

  2. It can help you improve your memory. You’ve studied hard all week to prepare for an exam you’re about to take. You open up the test and read the first question and it seems like, all of a sudden, every bit of knowledge you thought you knew flies right out of your head. While learning does require more than just memorizing facts, a good memory can help you hold on to the information you learned. Another study, this one in Psychological Science, wanted to test whether or not practicing mindfulness could improve concentration and memory in students. The researchers found that using mindfulness techniques for two weeks improved standardized test scores for participating students.

  3. It can help you stay on task. When you’re an online student working on a self-paced, flexible course, you don’t have a teacher standing in front of you forcing you to stay focused on what he’s teaching. You’ve got to be motivated and willing to push yourself when you don’t feel like studying. But some days, focusing on a lesson or a quiz feels nearly impossible. Your mind wanders out the window, to the television, to social media. The paragraph you were reading in your study guide is forgotten as you move on to other things. Learning to use mindfulness techniques can help you stay on task and remain focused, or to be present in the moment. Limiting distractions and being able to tune out background noise while you’re studying can keep you on track with reaching your graduation goals.

How can you practice mindfulness?

Being mindful is a skill that anyone is capable of, so you can learn how to fold it into your everyday life relatively easily. Those who take mindfulness very seriously will tell you that they meditate for an hour a day or more, they visualize their goals so they can reach them. That works for them, but may or may  not work for you. There are a few simple, quick tricks to get yourself into a mindful mode without spending hours or weeks studying meditation techniques. Here are a few things you can start doing right now.

  1. Take a few deep breaths. Whenever you’re stressed, angry, or sad, someone comforting you has probably told you to “take a deep breath.” It seems like a cliche, but taking a few deep breaths can slow your heart rate and ease negative emotions. When you’ve got a lot of negative emotions building up, every task you need to do seems more difficult than it should be. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, or even if you just want to concentrate on something, close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths. You’ll settle your thoughts and find it much easier to focus.

  2. Write things down. Getting into the habit of writing out your thoughts can help. You don’t have to keep a journal if you don’t want to, but try writing down your goal for the day on a post-it or a whiteboard or whatever’s handy. Your goal doesn’t have to be this huge thing; your goal can be as straightforward as “Finish Chapter 5 of my textbook before bed.” By writing down a goal in the morning, you’ll set up an expectation for yourself to finish it.

  3. Map out your goals. Your goals are graduation and career confidence, whether that means a new job or a promotion at your current company. How are you going to get there? You’ve already started by enrolling into a program to help you gain the skills and knowledge to take the first steps. But what happens after that? Take some time to map out the path to your goals. Does it include additional certificates? Volunteering? Whatever it is, write it down in an easy to follow way. Besides having a reminder of what you’re working towards, you’ll be able to visualize what you need to do to get where you want to be.

You can make your dreams a reality.

Mindfulness is about focusing and relaxing, being present in the moment, and visualizing your goals and dreams becoming a reality. But until you take the first step toward working to reach those goals, they might seem like they’re impossible, just dreams. You can do whatever you put your mind to, though, and ICS Canada can help. Take a deep breath, write down what you want for your future and call to speak with a member of our Admissions Team to make your move to the career you want at 1.888.427.2400.

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