Every morning I meditate for 8-12 minutes. This practice has done wonders for my ability to focus, become more productive, and manage stress. That said, I did some more research to begin to understand why that is physiologically so.
The more I learned, the more I was convinced I needed to share this invaluable practice with my students so they too can achieve the benefits. For students, a daily meditation practice can practically ensure that they get their desired SAT or ACT score.
It was no surprise when I stumbled across a study done with college students. For two weeks prior to taking the GRE – a more sophisticated SAT – these 48 students elected to be participants in a study to evaluate their working memory capabilities, performance, and focus on the reading comprehension passages of the exam.
They met four days a week for two weeks and practiced breathing and meditation techniques. The results from the study revealed that not only did these students diminish their tendency for “mind-wandering”, they also increased their scores on the reading comprehension (and working memory): the average score on a practice GRE verbal section jumped from 460 to 520.
Compound meditation with learning effective test taking strategies and a student should expect even more improvement.
While taking an overly-hyped test like the SAT or ACT, many students are consumed by thoughts that sabotage getting a score that is truly reflective of their ability:
- “I never do well on big tests.”
- ‘I don’t know the answer to this question, how many will I not know the answer to?”
- ‘If I don’t do well on this exam, I won’t get into college!”
- “All of these questions are so dumb!”
- “This is so much harder than the practice tests!”
Notice that these are really ‘false’ statements, but when couched in emotion – as they obviously are – they consume the students’ ability to maintain clear thought. They get in the way of focus and the ability to tap into working memory. Clearly, not conducive to getting a good test score!
Students who practice meditation daily develop the ability to avoid such thoughts and ultimately are able to get the score reflective of their potential. They are also able to capitalize on the strategies and skills they’ve learned in preparing for the exam.
Meditation has been scientifically proven to not only promote relaxation and focus but to actually increase the gray matter in the brain, specifically for emotional self-control – see above!
Some additional benefits:
- improve concentration
- increase internal energy
- develop love, compassion, generosity forgiveness, and generosity
- clear the mind
- reduce high blood pressure, cholesterol and heart rate
- decrease feelings of anxiety and/or depression
- increase the size of the brain’s Corpus Callosum which strengthens the mind’s ability to communicate more effectively between the right and left hemispheres
Guided meditation maybe the easiest form to learn and use. The practitioner is led into a relaxed consciousness which involves focusing on various parts of the body, putting the person in the present. (If you notice all of the listed ‘fears’ above are in the past or future.)
Students who approach the exam with a confident and relaxed state of mind are able to focus on what is ‘now’, i.e. not the previous question that WAS making them ‘crazy’!
I alternate between two apps to lead me through my meditation -– available on both iOS and Android.
Relax offers two guided meditations, 8 and 12 minutes. Calm gives the practitioner the ability to start from two minutes all the way up to 30. (Studies have shown that only 8-12 minutes a day can provide the mental, emotional, and physical benefits.)
BTW, parents are allowed to try this as well! Needless to say, this time is as stressful for you as it is for your teen.