Exam season has once again dawned upon us like an inevitable speeding train, but there are a number of simple tips and tricks you can take note of to make it that little bit more bearable. From diet to memory-enhancing exercises and simply relaxing have been proven to help enhance brain power and can have a knock-on positive effect on exams and assignments.
1. Chill Out
Funny as it sounds just taking it easy for a few hours has been proven to make your brain hunger for more exercise. Although it may be difficult to find time in your day to kick-back, a physiologist at the University of Kent, Samuele M. Marcora said “When you are mentally tired, intense exercise adds to the stress you are feeling…It won’t improve your fitness level, but it is good for the mood.” A more positive outlook on your studies will allow you to return to them with a fresh, more optimistic pair of eyes. After a particularly stressful day, Macora suggests moderate excersise such as walking or light jogging.
2. Talk and Be Honest
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ but during exams, it couldn’t be more accurate. By speaking to your friends or family about how you’re feeling, your anxiety is out in the open and you’re able to take the advice of others on board during your revision. More importantly, by talking to your coursemates, you’ll get a better idea of their study habits, be able to help each other brush up on your facts and collaborate ideas. The relaxed atmosphere of group study sessions will motivate your mind to grasp and retain more information and teaching someone else by reading material aloud could also be beneficial. It has been shown to significantly improve memory of the material.
Dropping the odd F-bomb or being honest about your feelings has its academic advantages. After observing groups in various workplaces, Yehuda Baruch, a professor of management at Rouen Business School in France, found that people swear as a coping mechanism to release stress. When annoyed with a difficult customer, one test subject pretended to carry on a conversation as if the client were still on the phone, but used profanity to describe exactly how she felt.
New research has revealed that lie-ins can actually help boost memory and concentration. According to the study from the Division of Sleep and Chronobiology at the University of Pennsylvania, you can help yourself recover from all those late nights studying by turning off your alarm clock for a couple of days a week. The study has also found that sleeping longer can make you a better employee or student, boost your energy, attention span and alertness.
4. Listen to Music
Certain types of music can be helpful in recalling memories and facts, according to research. Information that’s studied or learnt whilst listening to a particular track, album or collection of songs can be recalled by recalling the song(s) or artist(s) in your mind. Just as music can serve as an tool to remembering painful or unwanted memories, it can also provide a positive purpose of triggering your memory and help sharpen your skills academically and otherwise.
5. Be Positive
Sounds easy enough, but simply being grateful for the little things in life can help negativity distracting you from your studies. If you have time, writing down a few blessings in your life every day and why you’re grateful for them can help you de-stress. A health expert from the University of Lancaster, Professor Cary Cooper said, “People don’t always appreciate what they have…Try to be glass half full instead of glass half empty.” Even if you’re naturally a pessimistic person, it is possible to change your thought process and patterns, “By making a conscious effort you can train yourself to be more positive about life. Problems are often a question of perspective. If you change your perspective, you may see your situation from a more positive point of view.” said Cooper.
6. Write It Down
If there’s something particular you need to recall at the drop of a hat for an exam or essay, writing it down will create oxygenated blood flow to areas of your brain that a responsible for your memories and literally exercise those parts of it. So re-writing your notes, however tedious, not only gives you material to read from but helps boost your memory.
7. Feed Your Mind
By avoiding unhealthy, fatty foods, you can help enhance your brain power and improve your performance in exams and for assignments. But consider the fact that 50-60% of the brain’s overall weight is pure fat, which is used to insulate our nerve cells and the better insulation you have, the faster you are capable of thinking. This is why parents are advised to feed their young children food and drink high in healthy types of fat such as whole milk and is vital for long-term memory.
Foods such in Omega-3 such as oily fish and eggs have been proven to help the human brain. According to Larry McCleary, M.D., author of The ‘Brain Trust Program’, an eggs are the ideal breakfast as they contain B vitamins, which help nerve cells to burn glucose, antioxidants that protect neurons against damage, and omega-3 fatty acids that keep nerve cells firing at optimal speed. By eating a healthy balanced diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables as well as plenty of protein provides the nutrients your brain and other organs need to function as well as possible.
Caffeine has both good and bad effects on the human body, but you can use it to your advantage during exams. Although caffeine highly-addictive, long-time coffee drinkers reduce their odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 65% compared to those who drink less according to a Finnish study of 1,400 long-term coffee drinkers. Caffeine’s stimulating effect increases activity in the brain, blocking the development of proteins associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and whether you’re a fan of caffeine or not, it can help improve your concentration and make you more alert for your studies in the short term.
9. Watch a Tear-Jerker
Take some time to yourself in front of your T.V. to think positively about someone other than yourself. It sounds an odd way to stress-bust, but a recent study by the University of Denver suggests that thinking positively while watching a sad movie may help you cope with setbacks in the real world. The study focused on women who had experienced stress were shown sad scenes from movies. The majority of the women in the study distracted themselves from their anxieties by coming up with more positive endings to the films and good advice for the characters in them.
“Exposing your retina to sunlight resets your circadian rhythm so your brain is on a schedule.” Says Julie Holland, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine. So going for a walk and experiencing nature is something psychologists are only recently taking note of. One of nature’s beneficial effects is improving memory. In one study people who walked around an arboretum did 20% better on a memory test than those who went for a walk around busy streets. Looking at your revision or work in natural light can also be beneficial.