Be Careful How You Train Your Brain

During your ‘time off’—that is, during the times when you are not studying for the EPPP—be careful how you treat your brain.

Just as an Olympic athlete will take care of his body even during the times of the day when he is not training or competing, so a student should take care of his mind even during those times of the day when he or she is not actually studying.

We know from experiments done by neuroscientists that repeated bodily rituals can alter the physiological structure of the brain. Something as simple as thinking you need to reply immediately to trivial text messages, keeping social networking sites constantly running in the background, or checking your email twice every ten minutes, can be sufficient to train your brain to find attentiveness difficult, to find quiet contemplation strange, to find sustained concentration and patience to be a chore.

In other words, our neuroplasticitic brains adapt to the situations we put them in, and this adaptation is not always for the better. When you pass your EPPP and become a licensed psychologist, you will need qualities like attentiveness, concentration, patience and contemplation. What you do now can be creating the neuro-pathways in your brain that make these qualities easier or more difficult. (Interestingly, research is now suggesting that too much time on the internet and computer games use stunt the development of the frontal lobes, a part of the brain that enables us to empathize with others.)

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve already said that it‘s important to have time to goof off and waste on distractions. There’s nothing wrong with playing computer games and going on social media. In fact, it’s important to schedule time to goof-off during your off hours, but the key is to confine such activity to your off hours, and to stick to your schedule at all costs. Learn to manage your time in such a way that you can maximize the enjoyment you get from your distractions without allowing the distractions to become the directors of your life.

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