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What is «Vær god mot deg selv»?

It’s a website with lots of research based tips and advice intended to give you a slightly better every day life during the pandemic.

In Autumn 2020, the University of Bergen initiated the project to help students and young people get through a challenging period. Covid-19 has affected our everyday life. We socialize less. We are not getting to know new people, we are homesick or bothered with «corona shame,» and struggle with feelings of missing out on the best of student life. This may have both physical and psychological consequences, and some even give up on their studies. The benefit of being a big university is that it encompasses enormous amounts of knowledge on how to master everyday life in all its facets. That’s why all the tips and advice are rooted in research and science originating from UiB itself.

Do you have any good tips on how to improve every day life during the pandemic?

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Take a break from your mobile

Deep concentration can be trained like a muscle. If you avoid interruptions, you will gradually be able to stay “in the zone” for longer and longer periods.

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“Deep concentration is essential and necessary for learning when studying,” says Åsa Hammar, Professor at the Department of Biological and Medical Psychology. Deep concentration takes place when you can focus on your work to the extent that you get into a flow state and feel as if everything else around you almost disappears. People find it increasingly difficult to reach this state these days. The reason lies in our pockets.

“Mobile phones pose the biggest threat to deep concentration. They prevent us from achieving the constant, deep concentration required to absorb what we are reading or listening to,” says Hammer.
“Notifications, beeps, and vibrations from mobile phones are highly effective disrupters.” 

Brain training

“It’s important to understand that deep concentration can be trained like a muscle. If you avoid interruptions, you will gradually be able to stay in a flow state for longer and longer periods,” says Hammar. In today’s society, mobile phones and other distractions make it difficult for us to train our concentration muscles.

“This is true for everyone – young people, adults, and children. Interruptions mean that we aren’t used to real concentration,” says Hammar. And phone notifications are not the only disruptions we face. Hammar explains that the impulse to check our phones can become so strong that we are, in effect, interrupting ourselves.

“We don’t want to miss out on anything, and the fact that most of us carry a smartphone around presents a big problem for our deep concentration.”

Difficult circumstances

“Our ability to pay attention is significantly affected by whatever situation we are in,” says Hammar.

The coronavirus restrictions can make it even more challenging to focus. The most important reason is that our familiar environment has changed. You no longer have lectures, fitness classes or social activities to attend, you sit in your room day in and day out. Suddenly, it becomes a little harder to pull yourself together.

“Everything is inexorably linked. You struggle to concentrate because you no longer have a reason to concentrate,” says Hammar. She explains that the pressure that usually arises when you both have to study and do a lot of things in your spare time has a positive impact on deep concentration. Many people work well under pressure. When outside motivations like these disappear, it becomes more difficult to concentrate.

“When you have all the time in the world, your upcoming exam is the only thing pushing you to work. No external factors are requiring you to stretch your concentration skills from day to day, which I think presents a bigger problem than ever,” says Hammar.

Put it down!

So, what is a tired, pandemic-affected student to do? To facilitate concentrated work as a student, Hammar has a recommendation: Become aware that your mobile phone makes it very difficult to focus on work for an extended period.

Therefore, you should switch your phone to silent mode, turn off vibrations, and put the screen face down. Once you’ve done that, try to plan a structure for your workday – with clear boundaries between study time and free time.

“When there is little structure and everything just merges into one, it is more difficult to mobilise the concentration required to study,” says Hammar.

Source:

Åsa Hammar

Professor at the Department of Biological and Medical Psychology

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