Alright, you’ve done it: a whole week of studying. The unknowns are over and now you can take some time to reflect and refine.
Find a place with a few or no distractions to sit and journal. Answer these questions.
- What worked?
- What didn’t?
- How can I adjust my schedule to have an even better next week?
One thing to note: resist the urge to cut out healthy activities to fit in more study time! Not only can exercise, nutrition, meditation, and sleep help with your overall wellbeing—they may also play a role in supporting bar prep retention and recall.
It probably comes as no surprise that exercise is good for your physical health, but there’s also ever-growing evidence that physical activity has a positive impact on our cognitive abilities.
Researchers have found that exercise improves learning and memory. Multiple studies have concluded that the areas of the brain responsible for memory and thinking are larger in people who regularly exercise.
And a 2019 study published in Health Promotion Perspectives showed that participants who exercised on a treadmill for just 10 minutes at a moderate intensity shortly before their learning task—had better learning and long-term memory scores than the control group.
Give This a Try: Incorporate a moderate walk or another low-impact movement into your daily routine—especially before reviewing new or challenging subjects.
Nutrition often goes hand and hand with exercise when people consider making healthier life choices. And just like exercise, research finds that when it comes to cognition, good nutrition is also essential.
Give This a Try: Instead of focusing on what to take out of your diet, consider what you can eat more of instead. Like fish! Fish like salmon is rich in brain-friendly omega-3 fatty acids.
Other nutrients that studies show may have a positive impact on cognition include:
- flavonoids (found in citrus fruits, berries, and dark chocolate),
- lutein (avocados),
- nitric oxide (beets),
- vitamin E (nuts),
- and choline (egg yolks).
This list is by no means exhaustive. A good rule of thumb is to focus on adding in more whole, unprocessed foods.
Meditation may seem daunting, but it can be as simple as focusing on the ins and outs of your breathing. And that simple activity may have a significant impact on your test performance.
A 2018 study published in Cognitive Functioning found that a brief period of “wakeful rest” (i.e., 8 minutes of relaxing quietly with eyes closed) positively impacted retention for participants vs. those who were given tasks to do instead. And that same 2019 study from Health Promotion Perspectives we mentioned previously found that when participants meditated for 10 minutes between their learning task and memory-recall test, they performed even better than with just exercise alone.
Give This a Try: After a batch of studying, put a timer on for 10 minutes, close your eyes, and just focus on your breathing. You may be surprised at how much this improves your recall!
It may be tempting to cut back on sleep, but be careful not to study your way into burnout. Sleep is important. Really important.
A study published in Physiological Reviews found that our brains consolidate memory during sleep, which is needed for retaining information—turning new ideas into long-term memories.
Give This a Try: The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society recommends adults ages 18 to 60 sleep 7 or more hours a night. To get into a healthy sleep habit, try these sleeping tips:
- Establish a bedtime routine: consider stretches, meditation, journaling, or even a shower or bath
- Keep a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends
- Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet
- Leave electronics in another room (use an alarm clock instead of a smartphone)
Keep reflecting on and refining your schedule as you go to make sure you’re using your time well and taking care of yourself. And be realistic! Some weeks may require a totally different approach to accommodate other needs in your life.