Sneaky Brain Boost: Why Chilling Out Can Make You Smarter!

Let’s be honest, we’ve all been there – cramming for a test or trying to learn something new quickly. We convince ourselves that spending hours studying or practicing intensely will lead to success. But the truth is, that’s not the most effective way to learn. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have found that the best approach is, in fact, to study a little at a time with rest periods in between. So, let’s dive deeper into why this spaced learning method works and how you can adopt it to improve your learning abilities.

Why Spaced Learning Works

When we learn new things, our brain builds synapses – the connections between neurons and other cells that transmit information. In order for these connections to grow, we need to give them downtime. If we overdo our efforts at learning, the growing synapses stop expanding and start to shrink.

As researcher Alison L. Barth puts it, “We thought that synapses started small and then got bigger and bigger. This isn’t the case . . .Based on our data, it seems like synapses that have recently been strengthened are peculiarly vulnerable. More stimulation can actually wipe out the effects of learning.”

In other words, when you cram or intensely study a subject for prolonged periods, you may be doing more harm than good. Giving your brain a chance to rest and recharge between studying sessions actually strengthens your ability to learn.

How to Use Spaced Learning

Now that we know that spaced learning is superior to cramming, let’s look at how you can implement this approach into your routine. Here are some practical tips to get you started:

  1. Break your subject into smaller segments. Instead of trying to tackle a large subject all at once, break it down into smaller, more manageable parts. This allows you to focus on one aspect at a time and makes it easier to schedule study sessions.

  2. Space out your study sessions. Rather than studying for hours on end, set up shorter, more frequent sessions over a longer period of time. This can be as simple as spending 20-30 minutes reviewing material each day instead of cramming for hours the night before a test.

  3. Use a variety of study methods. Mixing up your study approaches can help reinforce learning. For example, incorporate reading, writing, listening, and speaking activities to engage different parts of your brain.

  4. Do regular reviews. Make it a habit to review previous material at regular intervals. This could be weekly or monthly, depending on your subject. Regularly revisiting previously-learned information helps to solidify your knowledge and ensure long-term retention.

  5. Find ways to apply your knowledge. Look for opportunities to use what you’ve learned in real-life situations. The more you put your new knowledge into practice, the stronger those synaptic connections will become.

  6. Get adequate sleep. Sleep plays a crucial role in memory consolidation, so make sure you’re getting enough rest each night. Aim for the recommended 7-9 hours to ensure your brain has enough time to process and store new information.

The Takeaway

Let’s face it, we live in a fast-paced world where it’s tempting to try and cram as much as possible into our available time. But when it comes to learning, slow and steady really does win the race. By adopting a spaced learning approach, you’ll not only retain more information but also give your brain the necessary downtime to grow and strengthen those synaptic connections.

So, the next time you’re tempted to pull an all-nighter or spend hours on end cramming for a test, remember that it’s actually counterproductive. Give your brain the rest it needs and embrace spaced learning for better, longer-lasting memory and understanding.

For more information on effective learning strategies and methods, consider visiting reputable websites, like The Learning Scientists, Edutopia, or Mind Tools, which offer evidence-based techniques backed by extensive research.