Vision Beyond Sight

Studying is a hard task for many of us, but apparently, it doesn’t have to be that way. As one of my goals for this academic year, I will be achieving at least 80% in all bits of work that I submit. To do this, I need some help with more effective studying techniques.

I consulted a book called Brain Rules by John Medina, which sold itself almost as a manual to the human mind. I’ll be honest, there were some very valuable suggestions within it.

Don’t Neglect Exercise

The first important point is to not neglect exercise. As with much of this book (I later learned), this information relates back to how we evolved as a species. Our ancestors would often run twenty kilometres a day in search of basic essentials, not just sit around on a PC.

Why does that matter? It matters because your brain evolved to become superior while performing exercise. Exercise increases the blood flow to the brain and around the body, as well as actually creating new blood vessels, all increasing how much energy is gained from food.

On top of all of that, exercise stimulates the production of a hormone called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). A powerful growth hormone, BDNF is responsible for creating and strengthening the connections between our neurons.

Exercise also benefits us by increasing the quality of our sleep. Medina mentions in the book that sleep being such a dangerous activity, leaving us easy victims to prey, it must have some vital functions. Bundled into this then, never neglect sleep and always follow your natural sleep cycle.

Three Tips for Studying Smarter

OK, in quick-fire fashion I want to address the most important tips he suggested in his book. The first is the idea that the brain pays attention to the stimuli it considers most important. This seems pretty obvious when you think about it because there is so much going on around you at all times, how could you be consciously aware?

The next idea is spaced repetition. Spaced repetition is where you repeat information every so often in order to strengthen your grasp of the knowledge. Rather than learning about something and forgetting about it, you would revisit it the following day, then the following week, then the following month and so on.

The final interesting point he made was about the Pictorial Superiority Effect. Basically, this means the mind favours visual stimuli over any other. This is actually a vitally important point for both studying and for my other goals as it gives credence to the idea of visualisation. It also makes me think about Memory Palaces, which is another avenue of exploration I might have to take a look at.

Conclusion

I did rush through this book today as I had a lot of packing to do once I’d finished work again, although we’re pretty much finished now. I may take another look at this book when I have more time, but I think I have gathered all the value that it holds for me in my present situation.

I can definitely add spaced repetition into my studies and the idea of identifying a purpose so that my mind knows what stimuli is important. I can do a bit of further research about the visual studying side of things, but that might be a way off. Finally, yes exercise is already part of my morning ritual, but knowing what benefits are good for increasing brain function, I could realistic plan an entire exercise routine optimising those benefits.

There has definitely been a lot of food for thought in this book.

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