Did you know that emotions are often experienced first in the body before they are experienced by the conscious mind? We explored this in our earlier article ‘The Three B’s of Mindfulness: Breath, Body and Brain,’ where we saw that subtle changes in mood are often experienced first in the body and only afterwards by the conscious mind.
The physiological effect of emotions was demonstrated by a group of scientists at the University of Iowa. The scientists set up a gambling exercise in which participants were asked to pick cards from a red deck or a blue deck. In the course of the game, the participants all eventually realize that over time it’s only possible to win by taking cards from the blue deck. But most people didn’t realize that until turning over 80 cards. However, the significant part of the experiment occurred before each participants consciously realized that the red deck was disadvantaged. About 40 cards into the game, their palms began to sweat when reaching for a card from the red deck—a clear sign of nervousness. Their body knew there was something wrong with the red deck 40 cards before their conscious mind was aware of it.
You may have heard a lot about mindfulness recently in the news and popular magazines. If you’re like a lot of people, you may find yourself becoming confused about what mindfulness even is.
Currently newsstands throughout America are featuring a special edition of Time Magazine devoted to Mindfulness. It includes everything from ways to bring greater intent into your life to recipes for healthy smoothies. On my bookcase I have a little book Moments of Mindfulness in which each page offers an inspiring picture from nature with a short tidbit of positive psychology.
Faced with resources like these, a person might be forgiven for thinking that mindfulness is a blanket term covering anything that makes a person feel good.
Our friends in the Pacific Northwest are covered in more snow than usual, likely affecting some of their EPPP productivity. Schools and employers have closed their doors for multiple snow days in a row. It’s so unusual, in fact, that elementary-aged kids are itching to be back in the classroom. I don’t know about you, but, as a kid, just one snow day would have been a dream come true, let alone multiple. As an adult, specifically one studying for the EPPP, a couple of snow days would be appealing as a chance for EPPP productivity. However, there’s something that happens when outside circumstances hinder our typical schedule. In the winter, cabin fever kicks in and EPPP productivity can diminish.
In our previous post, ‘EPPP Anxiety Part 1: Anxiety and Your Brain,’ we looked at how to use focused meditative breathing to relieve anxiety, including the type of anxiety experienced by those preparing to take the EPPP. I promised to share research on how this type of meditation can actually increase the size of the brain, improve social skills, make it easier to achieve mental clarity and focus, in addition to increasing emotional intelligence, self-regulation and resilience.
Before jumping into this research, let’s review three reasons why slow breathing is so powerful for maintaining a positive orientation in the mind and body.
Here at TSM we talk a lot about anxiety management, and with good reason. We are in the business of preparing psychology students to take the psychology licensure exam, known as the EPPP. This is one of the hardest exams a person can ever take, with 225 multiple-choice questions spanning topics everything from legal issues to psychopharmacology. It’s not unusual that those studying for this test experience high levels of stress and anxiety.
But even if you aren’t preparing to take the EPPP, we all need help managing anxiety. Ironically, it is often the people who need help with anxiety the most who are least aware of it, since anxiety has become such a way of life that it can start to feel normal.
Have you returned to your EPPP studies after the holidays only to find that you can’t remember a thing?
Are all the key terms that you carefully memorized before break now slipping from your memory?
Does it feel like you are starting over from scratch?
If your experience is anything like the many others I have worked with, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about, and the answer to all the above questions is an unequivocal yes.
I have good news for you: forgetting isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, forgetting can be a good thing if it forces you to engage in the type of spaced learning that is the basis for long-term memory retrieval.
In my earlier post, ‘How to Develop an EPPP Course of Study over the Holidays (part 2)’ I shared that one of the reasons we often find it difficult to study during the holidays is not because we don’t have enough time – quite often we have even more time during the holidays. Rather, the difficulty arises because the holidays bring so many distractions.
Because of the distractions, we often enter the holidays with ambitious plans for how much we’re going to study, but time somehow slips away from us. Before we know it, the holidays are over and we haven’t done anything productive.
I explained that this problem can be overcome by developing a study schedule that allows you to keep forward momentum with your EPPP studies without compromising the integrity of your holiday celebrations. This post continues offering holiday eppp study tips by considering the neurological benefits that holiday celebrations can bring. I will suggest that once your holiday study regime is in place, you should take full advantage of the benefits afforded by periods of rest and recreation. Instead of seeing your holiday time as an annoying interruption to your EPPP study, you can begin to see it as a valuable time for your brain to solidify and “incubate” what you’ve learned before.
Eat, drink, and be merry… and study. Balancing holiday fun with EPPP prep can be a challenge worth taking on. So can balancing a diet that’s both festive and brain friendly.
Here are six foods that Food Network mentioned are good for brain function:
- Spinach and/or leafy greens
Research claims spinach has time-turning powers, making your brain function like it did when it was five years younger.
They are rich in choline for memory, protein for muscle, and lutein for eyesight. You had better grab some deviled eggs off the appetizer table before they’re all gone.
Omega fats are good for brain development and function as well as a decrease in inflammation. Go ahead and get one more sliver of smoked salmon for your plate.
Antioxidants are to blame for improved short-term memory.
A smart breakfast choice for your morning EPPP study session, oatmeal wakes up your brain.
With vitamins C and E, broccoli boosts immunity. Fight that flu you can’t seem to avoid every winter season.
It sounds like a power smoothie with berries, spinach, and oats would be a great way to start your day. But since it’s the holidays, perhaps something fresh out of the oven might taste more like home for the holidays. Check out Food Network’s breakfast casserole containing eggs and spinach, here.
In our earlier post, ‘How to Continue EPPP Study over the Holidays (part 1)’ we talked about balancing your EPPP study with holiday celebrations. We gave advice on creating a flexible study schedule that allows you to continue studying little and often.
Clearly this type of study routine cannot be achieved without being pro-active and deliberate about the times when you are studying and the times when you are not studying.
By being deliberate, you will preserve the integrity of your study times as well as experience the full benefits of the holiday season.
Many have claimed to know the one secret to success. What if there are eight?
In his Ted Talk, ‘8 Secrets of Success’, Richard St. John condenses over a decade of research about success into three minutes and eight key words.
If success is what you desire, St. John’s eight secrets apply to you whether you’ve failed the EPPP and you’re trying again, or you’re about to make your first attempt.
Ask yourself these eight questions as you discover the secrets:
- What am I passionate about in the psychology field?
- Am I willing to do what it takes to reach my goals?
- Will I be good at what I do?
- Do my psychology-related goals have my focus?
- Am I willing to push myself through failure?
- How will my success serve others?
- What are my most exciting ideas?
- Will I persist in the face of opposition?
Take a look: