Let’s talk studying mindset and mental health. Mental health can be a scary topic to talk about for a few reasons. Everyone’s experiences are different, there are still taboos around the subject and, unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution or strategy that will work for everybody.
But just because something’s hard doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. If this was the case – no one would study! And what better week to tackle this subject than Mental Health Awareness Week.
So, whether your studying mindset needs some tweaks sometimes, or it’s really holding you back from happiness and results and is starting to impact your mental health, this blog post will give you some ideas and strategies to test.
But first, sign up to my Study Success Library where you’ll find free resources to help you further improve your studying mindset, motivation and study skills.
Studying mindset and mental health
Firstly, let’s distinguish the difference between mental health and mindset. A person with good mental health is able to learn, cope with change and challenges, maintain good relationships and make the most of their potential. Mental health problems can range from worries about everyday life to anxiety, depression or psychosis. Ultimately, mental health problems affect the way you think, feel and behave.
Our mindset can be thought of as our way of thinking and beliefs. Harvard professor and researcher, Jessica Schleider, describes mindset as our ‘internal frameworks for understanding, coping with, and responding to setbacks and adversities.’
Therefore, studying mindset can be defined as our studying beliefs and strategies for dealing with and overcoming academic challenges.
When we improve our studying mindset, we can experience improvements in our academic results but also in our confidence and happiness as a student. There is some research to suggest that improving our mindset can have positive impact on our mental health or even protect again future mental health problems.
6 strategies to improve your studying mindset
1. Talk about it
There’s an old saying that ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. While this may not be strictly accurate, when we talk about our studying mindset and the challenges we’re facing, it lifts the weight off our shoulders a little, giving us room to breathe and hopefully find some solutions.
A typical symptom of feeling low or depressed is feeling alone or isolated. I’ve had times where I felt like I was the only person in the world to feel this way or to feel this shit. When my mental health is bad I want to hide but I KNOW that when I talk to my friends and family about how I’m feeling, even if they can’t help that much, I feel better.
When you feel like you’re in a hole, reach out to those who care about you. This can be hard sometimes as no one likes to feel like a burden. But if your loved one was struggling, you would want to know and be able to support them, wouldn’t you? So let your circle do the same for you.
2. Reach out for support
While your friends and family can’t physically study for you, there are other ways they can help. Motivational pep talks, cheerleading and kicks up the bum, reminders of why you’re awesome and encouragement that you can do this. Or, more tangible things such as babysitting or doing more chores or errands when your studies are stressing you.
Also, your university or college can support you. If you’re feeling stuck, reach out to your tutor and ask for their help. If you need more support or want to discuss extensions or deferment, reach out to your student support service and see what options you have.
And, if your mental or emotional state gets worse quickly and you need urgent help, reach out because there is help available. In the UK, contact the Samaritans.
3. Develop a growth mindset
Stanford Psychology Professor, Carol Dweck, is a mindset expert. She explains that a fixed mindset is the belief that your intelligence and abilities are unchangeable – you’ll be this level of smart or capable forever. A growth mindset is the belief that you can improve your abilities and intelligence. That with effort, time and the right strategies you can become smarter.
I used to have a fixed mindset. When I left Sixth Form with low grades, I truly believed I was a rubbish student who just wasn’t that clever. It wasn’t until partway through university that I discovered Dweck’s growth mindset. It transformed my studying mindset and my results. The idea captivated me - that if I worked hard I could seriously improve my intelligence and results.
I threw myself into my studies and pushed through challenges and the results came. My grades climbed, I got a promotion at work because I didn’t take the first no as final, and I finally graduated with a First Class degree despite being told I wasn’t a good student at school.
4. Celebrate what’s going right
When our studying mindset and mental health is in a downward spiral, it’s a lot easier to focus on what’s going wrong and be completely oblivious of the things that are going right.
This is because, as psychologist and author Rick Hanson explains, ‘the brain is like Velcro for negative experience and Teflon for positive ones.’
Humans have survived for so long because we’ve evolved to be excellent at remembering failures and dangers. Nowadays we’re not at risk of being eaten by a lion or eating poisonous berries by accident, but our brains haven’t caught up.
You can improve your studying mindset by actively celebrating your achievements. Click here for a blog post outlining three simple ways you can do this – my favourite being the Happy Things jar. Every time something good happens in your life (big or tiny) write it on a sticky note and put it in the jar.
Whenever you’re feeling low or experiencing a bad mental health day, pull out the notes and have a read to raise your mood a little.
5. Change your state
Procrastination, negative thinking, low self-confidence, or feeling unmotivated are all unhelpful states. When you’re in an unhelpful state it’s pretty hard to get good studying (or any studying) done.
Here’s a simple process to change from an unhelpful state to a helpful state such as focus, positivity, confidence or motivation.
Get up off the sofa, chair or bed and do SOMETHING to break the pattern. Jump up and down and shake it off à la Taylor Swift, drink a glass of cold water, go for a quick walk, have a shower, sing and dance for one song.
This will shake off the lethargy, raise your energy and hopefully improve your studying mindset so you can get down to some great work.
6. Be the boss of your mind monkeys
We all have a negative mind monkey in our brain – one that pipes up sometimes to say horrible things.
- You can’t do this
- You’re a rubbish student
- You should just give up
- You’re not good enough.
Some students’ mind monkeys are louder than others or are more persistent which can be detrimental to our studying mindset and mental health.
Your brain doesn’t want you to do hard things, or feel pain or embarrassment so our mind monkeys will often say anything to get you to stop doing the hard thing.
Therefore, I don’t think it’s possible to never have negative thoughts so, instead, I try to control my mind monkey. If it starts to chat crap that makes me feel bad, I call it out, thank it for trying to protect me, and then tell it to move along.
Do this and overtime you’ll be able to distance yourself from these negative thoughts and improve your studying mindset.
I hope this blog post has been useful – I would love for you to share it with a friend who’s studying so we can all improve your studying mindset together.
Remember to sign up to my Study Success Library where you’ll find free resources to help you further improve your studying mindset, motivation and study skills.