Anybody who is pursuing medical school admissions knows that being “busy” comes with the territory and having a schedule that is jam packed and a life that is filled with commitment after commitment. It’s almost considered normal to have a life in which it’s almost impossible to find time for anything other than something “premed.” So, it would be almost a crazy idea to think that
Finding time to “do nothing” can actually increase the chances of getting accepted to medical school.
Andy Puddicombe, a mindfulness expert, TED speaker, and co-founder of Headspace, says that taking ten minutes everyday to “do nothing” can have remarkable benefit to ones mind and the practice of being mindful can do wonders. “Mindfulness is quite non-judgemental in nature. We’re not sitting there judging our thoughts. They’re just thoughts passing by. And rather than carrying that stress around with us for another day, week, month or year, we can let go. Move on with life.” Puddicombe contends that being mindful and sitting still with your thoughts for a few moments each day will allow for the opportunity to be in a moment, appreciate the moment for what it is, and give yourself permission to mentally take a break.
Nowadays, with the competition to get into medical school becoming tougher and tougher, it’s becoming easier to get caught up with feeling like you always should be doing something. By being involved with something and always being “busy” gives the false impression that you’re being productive and working hard to get into medical school. However, most premeds fail to recognize that there should be some form of balance.
The portrayal of what it takes to get into medical school is much to blame. High achieving, sleep deprived students are envied, praised, and encouraged. However, research has shown that a student’s productivity can actually decline due to academic burnout and stress associated with “doing too much.”
Put Your Medical School Dreams In Focus
So, now that you’ve got a few weeks off this summer, it is the perfect opportunity to pick up a new habit – do nothing. The practice of doing nothing may take some time to get used to but will be quite valuable.
Pico Iyer, a travel writer and another TED speaker, contends that one should “sit still long enough to find out what moves you most, recall where your truest happiness lies, and remember that sometimes making a living and making a life sometimes point in opposite directions.” Iyer argues that what we do with the experiences in our lives matters more than the actual experience and explains that it can actually be an exhilarating feeling to go nowhere, and do nothing. “In an age of distraction, nothing is so luxurious as paying attention,” he states. “And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.” Taking the time to do nothing may bring about so many benefits: a refreshed mind for the new semester, clearer thoughts on why you’re choosing a career in medicine, more time to reflect on the past semester, and feelings of calmness and control during what can be a “hectic” period in your life.
The Science Points To Yes, Do Nothing
Aside from having benefits on a “deeper level”, a mind in “resting state” can also be good for your mental health. In a paper, published in Nature, researcher Kerri Smith noted that the brain does quite a lot even when we think we’re not doing anything. “Blood flow to the brain during rest is typically just 5-10% lower than during task-based experiments,” Smith explained. One study highlighted in the paper “favors the idea that activity in the resting state helps the brain to stay organized.”
Much of the research on the topic of allowing the brain to rest and enter a state of restoration shows that the pros certainly outweigh the cons (that is, if there are any downsides to giving your brain a break). The science will show that taking the time to be in a state of stillness will help students reflect on experiences and memories, strengthen learning circuits, allow for better control of ones emotions, increase attention spans, and ultimately yield better results academically and be more effective in your pre-med life.
Students are going through the motions of the medical school admissions process and being active in many areas can be stressful and can take a toll on your brain. Using the summer season to give your brain rest may seem like such a mundane thing to do but it’s quite necessary. It will be hard for you to excel or continue to excel without giving yourself and your brain some downtime. And while you may very well be aware of the benefits of giving your brain a break, you’ve been working your hardest to get where you are, it may be hard to even imagine the thought of not devoting much of your time to your medical school journey, even if you know it might do you some good.
If we let music mogul and co-founder of Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation Russell Simmons tell it a person is “at their greatest functionality when their mind is quite.” And in the case of premeds, it will help get you past the highs and lows of your medical school journey. Once you are able to hone in on the great power of being still and doing absolutely nothing, your pre-med life will change – and for the better that is. Up until this point, the moments, experiences, activities, and opportunities have forced you to be in a state of constant motion, but once you take the time to slow down and be still this summer, you’ll discover the life-changing power of, yup, doing nothing.
The practice or art of “doing nothing” can take many different forms, simply slowing down the motions of your life in some way or another, whether it’s meditating or journaling for a couple minutes each day or going to the beach or park and spending some time appreciating mother nature – it should be on your to-do list – do nothing. When the Fall semester begins, you’ll easily find yourself busy being busy, but it’s critical to take the time now during the summer to escape the constant motions of your “normal” pre-med life. It can be quite easy to forget about the simple things in life when you are reach for these big goals of getting into medical school and becoming a doctor, but figuring out how to set aside time to spend with yourself and your thoughts will only make you a better student, medical school candidate, physician, and individual.