Miguel Panao | Professor and Author

Finding ways to improve scientific writing and academic productivity.

Learn in the present moment

The past is gone. The future is yet to come. All you have is the present. The present moment is the best one to learn something worth living.

We learn with the past although it’s gone.

We learn with the perspective the future gives.

But understanding the past to set the course for a better future depends on what we learn in the present, and every moment.

Several studies point, on average, that we have between 17 to 35 thoughts per minute. We’re always thinking. And from the 25000 to 50000 thoughts we have per day, everything indicates a majority of 70% are negative thoughts. No wonder how important learning is, in the present moment, for the simple reason of generating more positive thoughts.

Learning builds skills and creates cultural change, but we shouldn’t forget it affects our physiology, namely, our brain.

How learning affects your body every moment

When we learn something new, we create new neural pathways to connect the information acquired with prior knowledge. And the more connections we make, the higher is the number of synapses in our brain. Moreover, thoughts also release chemicals which produce an impact on our body and how we feel. For example, positive thoughts decrease the levels of cortisol associated with stress and increase the levels of serotonin, associated with a sense of pride and confidence, and we can focus more and become emotionally more stable. Positive thoughts also release dopamine which is a well-known neurotransmitter of a sense of reward and pleasure. All this bodily experience happens when we learn in the present moment.

But… (there’s always a “but”), what if you don’t enjoy learning?

In this case, learning in the present moment would become the opposite of everything stated above. I would like to challenge this impression. It is a matter of mindset and metacognition.

What can change

If you don’t see any point in learning, you can interpret the very thought of learning something as a negative experience. It follows an anxious, angry, disappointed, depressive state. If learning in the present moment requires new action every moment, you need to change the mindset to change the action to make learning a positive experience.

“So few people are really aware of their thoughts. Their minds run all over the place without their permission, and they go along for the ride unknowingly and without making a choice.” (Thomas Sterner)

If you’re unaware of the positive impact learning has in your life, giving more time to metacognition allows you to recover a learning awareness.

From my experience, since I began creating the habit of learning something new every day, and share it in Twitter as self-accountability strategy, my awareness of thought processes while learning increased. Moreover, I began craving more learning, not more knowledge, because learning in the present moment means translating information into knowledge (through understanding) into life.

When learning in the present moment becomes life, that’s the transformative moment which brings you to greater awareness, not of who you are, but more on who you may become.

Further reading:

How does thinking positive thought affect neuroplasticity?

About Miguel Panao

I am a Professor at the University of Coimbra in Mechanical Engineering. I am also author of books in the fields of environmental ethics and Science and Religion. From the several research projects, this site is personal and dedicated to the search for the best approaches, tools, techniques to improve scientific productivity.

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