How to study for exams – a highly effective technique. 

When we study for an exam, we usually have a few chapters to go through, from either one or more textbooks and perhaps some articles, and learn the material for an exam. It contains important terms, dates, definitions and some facts. You’ve read (or not) some of this material ages ago and surely don’t remember or know many important facts right now.

There is one very effective technique that can help you a lot.

How can you study to learn so much and quickly?

I’ve been using this technique for years and it always work very well for me so hopefully some of you will find it very useful too! 😉

  • (Obviously) You probably don’t have time to re-read the chapters so just skim them, looking for and highlighting the most important information. Many of the most crucial dates and terms will already be in tables or marked in some way by the authors to make them more visible which will simplify this stage a bit. Don’t highlight all the pages! Just dates, facts, definitions and a few examples!
  • Once you choose what’s most important go through your book again and make handwritten notes. In a notebook, not your book. Write down the highlighted sentences and terms. Try to be as selective as possible. Each time you go back to the text you should be able to narrow the information down more and more. The important bit here is to re-read some parts of the highlighted text and try to write the most vital things in your own words. Sometimes it may seem impossible to paraphrase something like a difficult term so just copy the authors’ words. It’s for your own use only anyway but you will need to use your own words during the exam unless you remember some quotes and then can use the exact wording. Make your notes interesting. The brain doesn’t like boring linear notes so adding some small mind maps and using colours or writing some words with a thicker pen can help with this. Funny or abstract little drawings on the sides? That’s what will help your brain remember stuff even more.
  • Take a break. Come back after a small meal and a walk or some exercises, andcarefully re-read the text. Read it out loud! Imagine that you are a teacher and try to explain the material to your students (you can speak to plants or books while practising this). It’s a very effective exercise that will help you to remember things better.
  • The next step is to take an A4 page and, bearing in mind that you have only one page for this task, summarise everything that is most important/worth remembering from the chapter you’ve skimmed and made some notes on. So basically, all the notes from one chapter now need to be narrowed down and summarised further: 1 chapter = 1 page. You decide what may be useful during the exams. You won’t be able to remember EVERYTHING anyway unless you’ve been studying hard all year—even then you’ll probably forget some facts. Again, make your notes colourful, use arrows, circle and underline the most important things to make things clear and easy to remember. Once this is done, you just need to re-read it the same day and the next day, and if you have time after 5 -7 days too. Read it while trying to understand, and if possible even imagine the meaning, of every single sentence. Turn the page upside down and try to say what you’ve read about, again like you are teaching someone about it. So, the rule is that a summary of every chapter goes on one page. You can write this using very tiny letters, but make sure it’s handwritten and colourful!
  • A day or ideally two before the exam, try to summarise your chapters even MOREall summaries of the textbook now go to one two-sided A4 page! So usually you can allow 20-30% of the page to each chapter’s summary, but it really depends on the number of chapters you have. So basically, you end up having one piece of paper with all the most important knowledge that your textbook contains. Again, make it super colourful and attractive – so you actually will want to read it. Make the letters quite small. Re-read this final summary a few times. Remember to take breaks! Keep the longer summaries (1 chapter = 1 page) with you and read them slowly in the morning before the exam, without rushing so as not to get stressed and to avoid doing these final repetitions a bit mindlessly. Then re-read your two-sided final summary with all the chapters on it.

If you follow all the steps, then you are more than ready for your exam!

Good luck!

7 Ways to deal with depression.

Depression is a real problem nowadays. According to recent studies, one in every two people will experience depression by the age of 60… That’s half of our population!

No-one really knows what exactly causes depression but…

  • genes are believed to be one of the factors that influence about 30% of the predispositions for depression.
  • stressful life events such as childbirth, loneliness, financial difficulties or unemployment can play some role in it too.
  • people with some particular personal characteristics may be more prone to have depression than others as well.
  • it is known also that some diseases and medications can contribute to depression a great deal.

So, how exactly do you or your relative or friend feel when experiencing depression? 

Surely miserable for most of the day. To be diagnosed with depression such symptoms need to occur nearly every day for at least two weeks. If you lose interest in your usual activities, sleep poorly, notice a decrease in concentration, have less energy, lose appetite, weight and libido, then you may be diagnosed with clinical depression.

How can you improve your mental health on your own?

  1. Many studies have shown that the best method of dealing with depression is exercising! A few decades ago we used to exercise… 4 hours a day! Nowadays many of us struggle to find 30 minutes for exercising a few times a week! Professors from the University of Toronto analysed over 26 years’ worth of studies on depression and confirmed that even moderate physical activity like a short brisk walk every day is very beneficial. Studies actually shown that people who exercise for 30min 3x a week felt improvement in their well-being equally well as people who were given antidepressants but did not exercise. What’s more, these who took antidepressants were 3x more likely to feel depressed again within the next 6-12 months after finishing their treatment! Surely it’s difficult to get motivated but once we manage to start doing it we’ll quickly notice a boost in general well-being levels, an increase in confidence and greater emotional stability. 

  1. Another very important factor is to spend time with people who support you and who you can trust. If you have depression you feel like you want to stop socialising and sit on the sofa all day but this will only make things worse. Close relationships are a huge happiness booster! Unfortunately, as many as 50% of Americans report that they don’t have any close friends. Recent technology development and Internet usage leads us to social isolation. Studies shown that creating and maintaining relationships with others release hormones that are responsible for reducing stress and anxiety levels.

 

  1. Try to devote more time to your passions, things you really like and enjoy. This also has been proven in many studies as a great method for 
    improving well-being!

 

  1. Healthy eating is an obvious fact … and yet so few of us take it seriously and follow the right advice. Food and drink have such an enormous impact on our mood and well-being …

  • If you feel tired and you need to focus, eat a bit of dark chocolate, a banana or some walnuts.
  • If you feel angry, drink some green tea.
  • If you feel sad, apparently drinking some low-fat milk can make you feel better.
  • Upset? Get some bananas and oranges.
  • When you feel depressed, try  to have more fish oil (omega -3) on a daily basis.

And, of course, drink at least a few glasses of water a day – something many of us constantly need reminders about.

  1. If you feel overwhelmed and exhausted de-plugging, getting more sleep, disconnecting for a few hours, or a whole day, may be very helpful. However, withdrawing from your life for more than a day is dangerous and not helpful at all. Remember that even if it feels like the right solution, your depression symptoms will probably get worse. Get more sleep than usual if you feel like you need to, but don’t waste too much time in front of the TV avoiding people, your responsibilities and life!

  1. There are many ‘helpers’ that work but only very temporarily and you should avoid them particularly when you feel depressed: alcohol, the Internet, drugs, and medications to boost your well-being. Some people may need antidepressants but these may make you feel unwell for a while before they start to work. Of course, I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone not to take any antidepressants on your own without speaking to your doctor about it! Try to take other steps first (such as exercising) before you and your doctor decide that you need to be on medication to cure your depression.

  1. What can also be very helpful is to plan your day to ensure that you have some structure, routine and things to look forward to; things you might enjoy doing even if you are not feeling 100% right yet. Remember to get some Me Time –  perhaps a trip to the cinema or a nice long bath with a book.

If you try these techniques and you still feel unwell, or your symptoms are deteriorating, you need to speak to your doctor. You may need antidepressants for a while. Just remember that they often take at least a few days to start to work properly, and they may make you feel a lot worse first before they actually start to work and make you feel better!

Me & my personal goals – so how are we doing?

If you’ve been following my blog since around December, you’ve probably seen some posts about my Personal Growth project – an idea for a plan for 2018 to achieve some goals.

In short, it meant that I wanted to spend some time on activities that can contribute to my personal development and that simply make me feel good and happy. Some of these things were reading and writing more, learning more about social media and digital marketing or trying to find a publisher for my book.

These goals are quite time-consuming sometimes (especially in the challenging busy period in my life that I’m in –> read due date soon!). Well, I guess I like challenges 😉 The goals are related to each other and focus on the same interests:reading, learning, writing, doing research about psychology-related topics. 

I used to give weekly updates in January and then decided that with my full-time job, pregnancy, my other little one at pre-school age, and with some ot

her time-consuming responsibilities as well, the weekly updates weren’t very convenient for me. It meant that sometimes I was focusing on reviewing and thinking what to write for an update blog post rather than taking action and doing activities which would take me closer to achieving my goals. So, for example, instead of such a blog post I could be completing documents for a publisher.

Also, I’ve realised that learning more about social media and digital marketing is A LOOOOOOOOT bigger a topic than I used to think. It’s HUGE. The amount of advice available online and all the little aspects that I should be aware of and try doing (some plug ins, SEO, Google analytics, learning how to grow my audience on Instagram account) are incredibly time-consuming, and even breaking it down into many little steps and tasks is simply quite difficult.

Social media, different platforms, websites, and the Internet in general have been changing and developing so rapidly that understanding many of the technicalities seems like a very long process. However, it’s interesting and I believe it’s worth learning and being up to date, especially as we use the Internet SO MUCH nowadays in nearly every aspect of our lives – shopping, businesses, writing books, emailing, work, reading news, online banking…

I’ve been having LOTS of home-related paperwork to do, as well as organising stuff for the new baby. I still have a longer list of things to do with regard to that and recently it has begun to feel like: I tick 2-3 tasks off and in the next few hours or days a few other tasks have to be added, so instead of making my list shorter I just feel I keep replacing tasks with other tasks! It’s frustrating but I’m trying to do whatever I can to organise everything as much as possible before the birth.

I’ve had to slow down due to lack of energy and feel some days very unproductive, and I think that in other circumstances I’d be more worried or annoyed about it but in my current situation I just accept this.

I have some blog posts scheduled so that’s super helpful. I also started to do some videos on YouTube. It’s a work in progress. It allows me to be creative, flexible and that’s a lot of fun! I really enjoy writing the blog and shooting and editing the videos where I draw what I talk about (please see an example here and let me know what do you think about it!). I’m learning how to improve them every week and feel that, although I don’t tick every single task off my list quickly, I’ve been learning and progressing in my personal development a great deal since the beginning of this year … and that’s what the results of this Personal Growth project should feel like, right?

I look forward to what life brings and how the project will continue in different months, in different circumstances. It’s just interesting for me how as a busy active parent I can make things work, and how I’ll need to modify my daily plans in order to adjust to different situations. And … what the final result will be, how much I will have learnt, and also what I will have managed to achieve.

WHAT ABOUT YOU AND YOUR PERSONAL GOALS THIS YEAR? 

How to be happier? And why we should think of others more?

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Make someone happy. Make someone smile. You’ve surely heard that good vibes and emotions, a positive mood and optimism are contagious. Studies from the University of Zurich in Switzerland, using MRI scans, indicated that people who spent money on others instead of themselves had more activity in the brain areas associated with happiness and altruism. In the research it was also highlighted that the amount of money spent on others did not matter.

The simple act of giving, not always expensive or material things, improves our well-being a lot.

In a different study, carried out by UK researchers, it was found that people who performed some acts of kindness regularly every day for 10 days had a significant boost in their happiness level. Such a short period of time as 10 days had made a huge difference! Again, the conclusion is: helping others makes us happier.

There is a popular Chinese proverb that fits here perfectly:
“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. 
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. 
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. 
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”

How to reduce stress levels and feel more in control? 

Do you feel you are getting stressed too often? Let’s look at what studies say about dealing with this problem. Being aware that stress can affect our well-being enormously and how to deal with it is certainly crucial for our well-being!

Remember that your emotions are just emotions and they are temporary. Don’t let them dictate how you feel. If something is overwhelming and you feel stressed and you feel that there is no solution, just TAKE A BREAK.

Depending on the situation, different things may help: talk to a trustworthy and supportive friend, watch a movie (preferably a comedy!), unplug and disconnect for a few hours and take a nice hot bath, practice mindfulness or go for a run (take headphones and turn on your favourite music).

When it’s difficult to deal with problems and we feel overwhelmed, it’s best to do some physical activity. Getting more oxygen to your brain, making your muscles tired – this always does the trick and will make you feel better, more confident and calmer!

Diverting your attention to your passion can also be very helpful but it may not always work, for example, if your passion requires quite a lot of attention and focus, because your mind may just not be in the right state, with lots of meandering and not-so-constructive thoughts.

It’s been proven that reading (a minimum of 6 mins) can reduce your stress levels by as much as 70%!

Whatever you decide to do, just don’t withdraw from your life, society, or work. That’s not a solution or a good method to deal with stress. It actually increases anxiety, stress and depression instead of giving you an opportunity to focus and find a solution.

One of the most helpful techniques that you can use on a daily basis to improve your resistance towards stress is to work on your outlook. The way you perceive different situations impacts on how you feel and how your body reacts. Studies found that perceiving difficult tasks more positively, as challenges rather than problems or threats, improves stress levels and makes us feel more in control and calmer. Try to avoid self-pitying, blaming others, and pessimistic and critical thoughts.

And remember. EVERYONE has problems, large and small, now and then. You are not the only one!

How much your happiness can be affected by a major event?

When psychologists talk about happiness, they don’t mean a temporary emotion and people who are happy just in a particular moment in their life (although of course ‘being happy’ is also considered as a short-term state of mind). Positive psychology as a science perceives happy people as those who are optimistic and content with their life more in general and in the long term. They use the terms life satisfaction or SWB (subjective well-being) to cover this in their research.

There is a term called the hedonic treadmill in psychology (which I mentioned in one of my previous blog posts) and it basically means that we get used to new things and situations quite quickly and come back to our usual happiness level after big events have happened in our life – which are significant in either a positive or negative way. Thus, lottery winners and people who lose a limb in an accident are on average, after around a year, as happy as they used to be before these major events took place! It sounds quite unbelievable but there is a lot of evidence that external factors, situations and events, even if significant, don’t have that large an impact on our well-being as we think they would have.

Happiness can be achieved and enhanced by using the power of your mind and inner abilities! We now know, for example, that a change of habits is possible. Our mind is a lot more powerful than we think it is. We often underestimate what we can achieve just by changing our mindset, setting goals and taking actions; and we overestimate external factors. Maybe because that’s easier? What do you think?

Have a look at my recent video about science & happiness: https://youtu.be/xd0KT9gJask and let me know what do you think about it! Thank you!:)

Productive Mondays! How many hours should we work, ideally?

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We often confuse productivity with being busy. What exactly does it even mean? We feel productive when we are very busy, when we have a lot of tasks and complete most of them. Usually the more hours we work, the more productive we feel.

HOWEVER

There has been plenty of research where findings show that if we work too many hours we decrease our productivity A LOT!

What’s more, if we work a lot of hours for a few weeks or more – that’s just a perfect recipe for depression, burnout and anxiety which may even lead to a nervous breakdown!

Labour Economics published an article by Collewet and Sauermann where the researchers outlined their study done on call-centre workers. Even with part-time employees, increasing their number of working hours created more fatigue than productivity! (more about this study here )

Too few hours = we won’t achieve much.

Too many hours = we are tired and our productivity decreases a lot.

What’s the golden rule? What’s the perfect solution, then?

Chris Bailey in his book The Productivity Project (available HERE) talks about an experiment that he did. Namely, he worked alternate weeks for a very different amount of hours. One week he worked 20 hours and another one 90 hours, and in this way he did several weeks.

An important lesson that he realised? That while working 90 hours he did only a bit more work than while working 20 hours!

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When he had only 20 hours to do his tasks, he felt a bit of pressure that his time was so limited so he focused on using his more valuable time (when he had most energy and attention) to do the most important, difficult and meaningful tasks. With that limited amount of time it was also easier not to procrastinate too much (and, apparently, it’s impossible to completely avoid procrastinating) because he had to focus on what must be done, on priorities! During the 20-hour-work week he had more time to recharge and restore his energy levels in various ways too (meditation, exercising, sleeping well, socialising, etc.).

When we work a lot, it’s hard to remember all the time what’s most important, what we should pay more attention to, what’s the bigger picture. Although we work more, we don’t have enough energy and focus to do planning or to do it properly, and to think of possible improvements and solutions to various problems.

Chris dug deep in his research to find out the ideal amount of hours that one should be working so as not to get too tired and to be able to complete a lot of tasks in a productive way. He found that although 46 hours felt like the best working week for him most studies indicate that 35-40 hours a week is perfect to get the job done with maximum productivity.

Surely the more you enjoy your job, the more you are able to work. However, breaks and time to rest are crucial for your creativity, maintaining an innovative and open-minded thinking and approach, and your efficiency.

How many hours a week do you work? Do you have any control over it? Can you improve this aspect in your life to become more productive?