Deep breathing exercises can reduce stress and supercharge your brain. A little stress is okay, but too much stress can be bad news. Stress hormones can interfere with thinking, learning, and memory. In addition, research has shown that too much stress can make you sick. Deep breathing increases the circulation of blood and oxygen to the brain which can help you think more clearly.
2. Talk with a Friend
Even your brain needs a friend. Social support is important for coping with stress. In fact, research has shown that loneliness can make you sick. In addition to the healthful benefits of socializing, some people find they learn better while interacting with others (collaborative learning).
3. Get Some Sleep
A sleep deprived brain doesn’t work at its full potential. Sleep is restorative and important for learning. Research has shown that “sleep is critical for firming up the learning that took place during the day–a process known as memory consolidation” (American Psychological Association Monitor, 2001, vol. 32, #9).
4. Keep Your Brain Fed
Just like a car needs gas to run, your brain needs energy to do its work. Studies have shown that skipping meals can make you slower and less accurate in solving problems. Good nutrition helps keep your body healthy which helps you ward of stress and illness. Also hunger pangs and a growling stomach can distract you from your studies. Remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water every day.
5. Take a Break
Your brain keeps working even when you’re not directly focused on a task. Studies have shown that we remember more of the first and last things that we study (primacy and recency effects). Taking breaks increases the number of firsts and lasts. It also gives your mind a breather, so that when you return to studying, your mind will be sharper. In addition, the Zeigarnik Effect states that if you are half way through learning something and are then interrupted in what you are doing, you will remember what you were doing better than if you had completed the learning task. So, if you take time out while studying, the amount you will actually learn increases.
6. Flex Your Muscles
Exercise is good for your brain. Vigorous exercise releases endorphins which can increase feelings of wellbeing, decrease pain, and enhance the immune system. Endorphins also reduce the impact of stress. Even taking a brisk walk can have calming and invigorating effects.
7. Maintain a Positive Attitude
Your brain controls your behavior so negative thinking can hurt your school performance. Negative thinking can impact your performance. If you believe you will fail, you may not try as hard or you may be so nervous that you can’t think straight. Fear is contagious so surround yourself with positive people.
8. Stay Clean
Don’t dope up your brain with caffeine, nicotine, or recreational drugs. Caffeine and diet pills can make you jittery and distractible. It can take several days for the effects of alcohol on your brain to wear off. Research has shown that marijuana’s impact on memory and learning can last for days or weeks and THC can be detected in your system for up to a month. In addition, all of these drugs interfere with the REM sleep your brain needs to rejuvenate itself.
9. Get Organized
Don’t clutter up your brain. Take a realistic look at what you have to do and develop a plan to get it done. Prioritize projects and start on the tasks that will require the most time and effort. Make a “To Do” list and cross things off as you get them accomplished. Taking the time clear out clutter in your living spaces can help clear your mind and allow you to focus on what’s important.
10. Reward Yourself
Train your brain. When you do well on a test or finish a project, reward yourself. Behavior theory states that if you are consistently rewarded for a good performance, you will be more likely to repeat that behavior in the future. Make the size of the reward consistent with the difficulty of the task – for example, rent a movie after finishing a paper or go out to eat with friends after that big exam. Giving yourself something to look forward to increases motivation and enhances positive mood.