#2 – Exercising body and mind
It has been an intense few weeks settling into university life. Between getting used to new surroundings, making friends, adapting to a higher level of learning and making time for all the things you enjoy, it has slipped my mind that I need to be conscious of my diet. Those gin fuelled nights during freshers’ week were great for the soul, but disastrous for the waist line! So, I needed to rethink my diet and head down to the gym. I am impressed with the facilities at the sport centre. It’s a relatively small space but it never really feels crowded. After a few sessions I’m starting to feel the emotional benefit of exercise, something I had always heard and dismissed- the gym only makes you feel tired, right? I wake up in the mornings feeling a little bit more energetic and I feel more focused when I settle down in the evening to do my work. It’s not for everyone but I would encourage people to give it a go and see if they feel the same benefits as me (you can do a 30-day membership for £25).
It’s a common myth that most of you have probably heard before: “the brain is muscle, you better use it or lose it!” or something along those lines. Well those people are wrong; the brain is not a muscle and you aren’t going to get a ‘ripped’ brain from doing intense sudoku sessions. However, we can the brain to react in specific ways to certain stimuli, as demonstrated by the field of behavioural psychology. During a seminar this week on early intervention, I found a study by the Early Intervention Foundation called “The Troubled Families Programme”. It was regarding targeted investment into families facing issues such as unemployment and the financial issues that occur from it, as well as parental conflict. The document claimed that there was good evidence to suggest that such interventions improved outcomes for children and parents in the programme. Now, I am terrible for reading things such as this and not thinking about what I am reading. After my lecturer pointed out that there were studies that questioned these findings, I realised that it was not only my body that needs training, my brain needs training too. To succeed in higher education, I need to develop a more critical mind, which has led to me reverting back to 10-year-old self and constantly asking the question “why?” But this time it’s not to annoy my older brother, but to gain a deeper understanding of an issue by going further than one person’s perspective.
So, I’ve covered the body and the brain, but that isn’t the only thing you need to look after at university. I believe it’s important not to forget to look after the soul. I know, I know, its sounds like we’re about to engage in a drunken conversation at 3am about what the ‘soul’ really is. But I’m actually just talking about your emotional health. For me there is one simple remedy to keep myself happy and smiling, which is to spend time with my girlfriend. We went out for a meal at Las Iguanas in Leamington at the weekend (I highly recommend if you like Mexican cuisine and cocktails!) and it’s no surprise that on the Monday I felt great and ready to take on the week. Obviously, this is a deeply personal thing, and everyone will have a different way of refilling that feel-good-meter, but it’s important not to overlook this aspect of your health.
My final point for this post is about mindsets. I know a few people at university who currently feel that they can’t do it, their course is too hard, there is too much information to remember, etc, etc. Whenever I hear these comments I always think back to one of our first lectures on our course regarding Carol Dweck’s theory on mindsets: People with a ‘fixed’ mindset believe that they have certain attributes, talents or intelligences and this is all they will ever have. Therefore, when they are presented with a challenge outside of what they deem to be their skill set, they struggle. Those with a ‘growth’ mindset believe that effort and determination are the keys to success in any type of challenge, which means they react more positively to new challenges. I believe that all of us must develop growth mindsets to truly achieve our potential in higher education and if you are interested in learning more about Dweck’s mindset theory, take a look at the video link below.
Thanks for reading,