Spiritual or not, the art of meditation which monks have practiced for thousands of years is now sneaking into people’s everyday life. It’s amazing how something as simple as meditation can hold so much physical, mental and psychological benefits.
There are benefits in both meditating either before or after studying as the latter helps you clear your mind so that you can focus better, whereas after studying it provides you with less stress so you can better absorb what you have studied.
Today, activities like Yoga and other types of mindfulness have become forms of meditation or ways to prepare us for meditation. Throughout the years, there have been attempts to understand the impact that meditation has on studying as well as the best time to meditate; and it should be done before or after studying. But it will be wrong to answer that question without first understanding what meditation is all about and why it is beneficial to studying. So, what exactly is meditation and what does it do to our mind and body?
What is meditation?
Three key words often come up when the subject of meditation is discussed; attention, awareness and compassion. In fact, many sources, including the Insider, describe meditation as a practice that deals with training those three important concepts. An article in the New York Times observes that anyone can meditate; it is a largely simple and common practice that can promote calmness, clarity and happiness. It is an ancient practice that has gained wide attention and momentum in recent years, evolving in the process but maintaining its basic principles.
The online medical resource, Healthline, describes meditation as a habitual process; one that involves training the mind to focus as well as redirect thoughts as needed. The origin of meditation can be traced back to millenniums in the Eastern and middle Eastern traditions like Ayurveda in India and other wellness practices common with Japanese and Chinese history and traditions. In recent times, different forms of meditation have taken centre stage, gaining popularity in the United States, the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe. Some people practice progressive relaxation to ease tension and just relax the muscles and nerves.
Mindfulness, which is a form of meditation, was rated in the 2019 Trend Report of the Global Wellness Summits as one of the most frequently-practiced forms of meditation in the US. Other popular types include walking meditation, body scan and loving-kindness meditation. Meditation practice in the US grew by more than 300% between 2012 and 2017 alone, according to the Insider. This growth in popularity is mostly due to the increasing reality that meditation has immense physical, spiritual and psychological benefits.
One of these benefits is its impact on study. The jury is still out there in an attempt to decide if it is better to meditate before or after studying and which routine would provide the best results. There are varying opinions to this subject. Some say you’re able to focus better if you study after meditation because your mind is less likely to wander. Others say post-study meditation means you will be able to focus your attention and mind on what you have just studied and store it better. I guess we’ll find out as we move on.
What are the benefits of meditation?
We must’ve seen Monks, maybe even in movies engaging in some sort of meditation. The Hindu and Buddhist traditions uphold meditation as not only a form of enlightenment and deep concentration, it is also a way to improve what some call a unifying consciousness or oneness with the world. Meditation is not a way of detaching, as some would have you believe. It is actually about focusing entirely on a specific thought, especially when it is “mindfulness�?. There are several benefits to derive from meditation, including;
- Improved Memory
Memory is an important part of human existence, and it is common to lose this important aspect gradually as we age. There is credible evidence that meditation, especially those that include chants and mantras, can improve attention and clarity. So, even as you grow old, meditation can keep your mind active and young. An example of such forms of meditation is Kirtan Kriya; it combines meditation, chants and repetitive finger motioning. This helps to focus the meditator’s thoughts and keep the mind alert.
There are studies that support this claim, including one study that showed great improvement in cognition and memory in older people with Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.
- Improved Concentration
Another important benefit of meditation is the proof that it lengthens attention span. If you consider it logically, it makes sense. Some kinds of meditation are focused-attention based. Experts liken this to weight lifting when it comes to attention span. It is like exercising your brain’s ability to concentrate and focus on a particular thing longer and better than you would normally do. There are studies that support this too, including those that found improved accuracy in completing tasks by those who listened to meditation tapes.
- Controlled Anxiety
The simple fact that sitting or lying in a spot for minutes and focusing on something relaxing is enough to reduce stress levels should be enough to convince you. Anxiety naturally reduces with reduced stress levels. In fact, studies showed that those with the highest levels of anxiety experience more significant effects from meditation. A particular study also recorded reduced anxiety in people with anxiety disorders after eight weeks of mindfulness meditation. Even activities as simple as yoga have also been proven to be effective against anxiety, as studies point to its physical and meditative components as being responsible for the benefits.
- Improved Emotional Health
One way or another, your emotional health affects your physical health. Remember how that bad breakup or loss made you hurt yourself physically? Generally, you grow in positivity and self-esteem with an improved emotional health. There have been several studies in the past to understand the effect of meditation on depression. The results from about 3,500 adults showed great improvement. Some studies also examined the impact of meditation on the stress-releasing chemicals known as cytokines.
It was determined that meditation may actually reduce the levels of such inflammatory chemicals, leading to reduced depression.
- Reduced Stress
Across the world, and within my sphere of influence, I have tried to find out the most basic reason people engage in meditation. For most of them, it is to reduce stress. And indeed, meditation does reduce stress. High levels of cortisol are released when we go through physical and mental stress, leading to other conditions like sleep discomfort, increased fatigue, increased blood pressure, and clouded thoughts. In a study carried out using mindful meditation, participants studied for 8 weeks and it was discovered that mindfulness meditation reduced the hormonal response triggered by stress.
Why you should make meditation a habit for optimal results
If the benefits above do not convince you, think about all the craziness in the world and how important it is for anyone to have a safe place. That is what meditation means for most people; a place (existing only in the mind) they can withdraw to and get away from all the noise in the world. It is also a place to exercise the brain. If these do not also convince you, then think about the many successful people who have made meditation a habit. From Oprah Winfrey, Katy Perry and Paul McCartney to Marc Benioff and Madonna, there’s a long list of CEOs and celebrities that practice meditation.
Meditation can be as simple as focusing on your breadth. As easy as it sounds, it is often very easy for the mind to wander during meditation. Some people do not notice; some do. Making meditation a habit will put you in the right position to react appropriately when this happens. But beyond that, you’re able to take on a positive outlook on life generally. Meditation sets your mind on working out challenges and providing solutions rather than wailing and falling into depression. This is because you have a stronger ability to focus on the positive and what is important.
Does meditation help with studying?
Meditation’s impact on the brain can be great for your studies. This is not an empty claim. For many people, finding the motivation is the problem. For others, it is handling the anxiety that the thought of studying brings. Whatever the case, meditation has been proven to be a vital tool to help people who have a problem studying. There is another wrong belief that you may need to hold on to some talisman or repeat some chants in the middle of burning candles. It is actually not that deep.
This is one way to see it; your brain is a muscle that needs to be trained and exercised. It’s that simple. And just as your body derives strength and vitality from exercises, so does your brain from meditation. This is achieved when the cerebral cortex is flexed, leading to your ability and capacity to absorb and take in new information. This is also evident in a student’s ability to pay more attention to lectures and have improved concentration during study. Science regards meditation as a cognitive behavioural therapy, and according to a recent study by Harvard Medical School, such therapies like meditation are helpful for cognition.
Why you should meditate before an exam or test
Tests and exams are like the number one enemy for many students. In fact, there is a school of thought that suggests that tests and exams are not the proper way to assess a student’s intelligence, but will only mount pressure on certain students on one hand, while dishing out robots on the other hand. But back to the question, there is substantial evidence that meditating before an exam or test can be a good thing. A group of Santa Barbara researchers carried out a study in 2013 to ascertain the impact of meditation on students’ test performance.
They found that Mindfulness practice improved students’ Graduate Record Examination reading-comprehension scores as well as working memory capacity. The study also showed significant reduction in the occurrence of distraction or distracting thoughts while completing the GRE. An article by the New York Times cited the assertion of a University of Wisconsin-Maddison professor, Richard Davidson. According to him, signal-to-noise ratio can be improved if the noise is reduced. And you’re doing just that with meditation, which decreases mind-wandering.
So, the answer is simple. Meditation improves attention, focus and concentration, and it also reduces the possibility of mind-wandering and distraction. You will agree that these are all one actually needs to study effectively.
Should you meditate before studying?
Like I said earlier, people would naturally do what works best for them. Let me point out first that you should not simply pick up meditation just when you intend to study. It would work best if you already practice meditation as a lifestyle, and not something you run to as a miracle therapy. Meditating before studying has some undisputable benefits as it clears the mind from distractions and helps you maintain focus and attention. This makes your brain and mind ready to accept new information, process them properly and store them as necessary.
But it’s beyond just concentration. Memory is also significantly affected by meditation. You’re able to remember details of your study even afterwards. Ball State University researchers published a study in 2019that showeda 10-minute session of mindfulness meditation improved the memory of the participants and helped them retain useful information better.
Should you meditate after studying?
While some meditators prefer to practice before study, there are those who would rather meditate after a study session. The latter group are of the opinion that meditation can significantly aid retention, and they’re not wrong. Studies have shown that it can work either way, meditation before or after studying. Trying to remember what you have read can be a tough thing, and quite stressful too. Meditation can help with this process. Adding soft, intentional music to your meditation can also be very helpful in this case.
Meditating after studying can also eliminate some of the stress you’re ordinarily supposed to endure as you try to remember. Some experts also recommend meditating in between studies. We all have those moments during study when it feels like we’re losing focus. Beyond getting up and taking a walk in your room or having a cold shower, you can take some deep breadths and a moment to just meditate and try and refocus your attention. This is one effective way to re-centre and get your study groove back on.
Is it okay to meditate before and after studying?
This is not a practice psychologists or other experts would recommend. However, if properly applied, and done in the right durations, meditating before and after studying can work quite the magic. You need meditation to clear your thoughts, improve your concentration and focus and help your memory by relieving stress and anxiety. Meditation after studying can also be useful to prevent your mind from wandering while you’re trying to remember what you have studied. This can be a useful practice when studying for tests or exams.
What is the best type of meditation for boosting your learning?
There are several types of meditation, including the nine major types:
These different types have specific attributes and mode of practice, and they serve specific purposes as well. For boosting learning, Mindfulness meditation stands out. According to Healthline, mindfulness meditation has to do with paying attention to your thoughts as they go through your mind.
In other words, you’re combining concentration with awareness. Your focus is meant to be on something, in this case, it should be on what you’re learning. Mindfulness meditation is also preferred because you do not necessarily need a teacher to guide you. Mindfulness meditation has its origins in the Buddhist teachings, and is regarded as the most practiced form of meditation in the United States and Europe.
Other sources identify Focus Meditation as another effective technique for anyone looking to study. It is deemed effective because it requires focusing on something, internal or external. It is a great technique for people who have a problem focusing. Here, you’re able to always bring your mind back to the subject of your focus if it does attempt to wander.
Meditation is a practice that is thousands of years old, but research on the subject is still very young and quite minimal. While much more research is required to have a clear understanding of the exact way different techniques of meditation interact with the human brain, we cannot deny the immense benefits it has been proven to have for studying and learning. This post has also been able to clearly show the benefits of meditating before studying as well as meditating after studying. It is left for you to decide which is best for you. Get into the world of meditation today, and you’ll be glad that you did.