10 Simple Hacks To Supercharge Your Learning

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“Learning is not child’s play; we cannot learn without pain.”   – Aristotle

Something tells me that Aristotle was not invited to many parties, at least not the fun ones. However, I’m big enough to concede that one of mankind’s greatest thinkers does have a point – learning is not always easy. That’s why this blog exists.

No matter what techniques we employ we still have to put the learning time in. Time spent learning is time well spent but wouldn’t it be nice to have a few cheats up our sleeves?

Science to the rescue! Here are ten tips that will make learning and recall just a little bit easier.


Woohoo! Coffee improves long term memory!

A study by a team from John Hopkins University in Baltimore and published in Nature Neuroscience found that a strong cup of coffee taken after learning helps improve long-term memory.

Well, kind of. In the study, 44 non-habitual coffee drinkers underwent a memory test. Then half the group was given a 200mg Caffeine tablet (equivalent to one strong cup of Coffee). The people in this group performed 10% better in remembering the test 24 hours later.

Is a test group of 22 people enough? Is 10% statistically significant? Is 24 hours long enough to judge that long term memory had been improved? Who cares? Coffee people! I’m drinking one now so I’ll probably remember this article word for word tomorrow. If not, I’ll just have another cup or two.


Sleep for at least 7 hours for your brain

Ok, we know that sleep is essential for laying down memories. But, for the first time, researchers in the US and China were able to watch mice brains create connections between neurons during a full night’s sleep. Sleep significantly affects how many connections the brain is able to make.

So do not miss out on sleep. Ever. Late night cramming sessions are counter-productive!

Set aside time to unwind and get a good night’s sleep. (Just try not to think about Scientists peering into your brain to watch it grow, try counting sheep instead.)

Wondering how much sleep you need? According to the SleepFoundation.org the following are the recommended amounts of sleep for different age groups:

  • 14-17 hours for Newborns
  • 12-15 hours for Infants
  • 11-14 hours for Toddlers
  • 10-13 hours for PreSchoolers
  • 9-11 hours for Tweens
  • 8-10 hours for Teenagers
  • 7-9 hours for Adults
  • 7-8 hours for Seniors

Distracted while learning? Distract yourself when remembering

Everyone knows that you can’t learn effectively when there are a lot of distractions. Right?

Well,  a study published in Psychological Science found that people can remember what they learned as long as they were distracted during the recall in the same way as during learning.

So… Still aim for quiet, peace and solitude, but if you can’t get it then ask if you can bring the TV/Audio Source/Kids/Family/Neighbours to your exam or workplace?

It may not be the most useful tip, but it may come in handy someday.


A curious mind is a sticky mind!

“Curiosity may put the brain in a state that allows it to learn and retain any kind of information, like a vortex that sucks in what you are motivated to learn, and also everything around it”  – Dr. Gruber

Being in a curious state can trigger the brain to learn and retain any kind of information according to a study led by Dr. Matthias Gruber.

Who doesn’t want a Vortex Mind? It’s like a super power! So feed your curiosity by trying to find something in the subject that interests you. If not then try to trick yourself into a curious state some other way.

No, I don’t know how to do that either.


To learn or not to learn. Swoosh.

Actors learn lines for a living yet most do not employ memorization techniques. So how do they do it? According to Professor Helga Noice, connecting what you’re learning with gestures and movement makes for better recall. Actors rehearse and rehearse the lines while also doing the actions of the characters. So if you need to do a speech or a presentation, practice  your lines with gestures as well. Just try to go easy on the ham…

Actors also tie the lines to the character by learning more about them and their motivations. In essence the character becomes a hook for the lines. There’ll be more on hooks in future posts.


Ditch the screen!

Taking notes by hand leads to better long-term comprehension according to a study in Psychological Science. Laptops, tablets and phones don’t help you remember the notes and it’s got nothing to do with checking Social Media. Students who took notes by laptop tended to write longer, verbatim notes, while those with old-fashioned notebooks tended to summarize the notes more. Thus they were more actively engaged with the content.

It may have been a small study of 65 students but it definitely has a ring of truth about it. It’s harder to take notes by hand so your forcing your brain to comprehend and shorten what you’re hearing which makes it easier to recall.


Chill out and smile!

Studying can be stressful, especially when there’s an exam at the end. This can be beneficial in that it forces you to study but it’s also counter-productive. How unfair is that? Even short term stress can negatively impact on learning according to a study from the UC Irvine School of Medicine.

So chill. Any technique to de-stress will help, but laughter may be the quickest and easiest mini-fix.


The panacea

Yes, exercise. It’s good for everything. Many studies have found that regular exercise helps your body and mind in many ways including learning and recall. It also helps you to de-stress and helps you sleep so it gives you multiple benefits.

So start doing squats while you’re reading this and be thankful that I didn’t make it the first point!


Winks are good for thinks!

Wait, what? Wasn’t this covered already?

As well as a good night’s sleep, research from UC Berkeley found that an afternoon nap can also dramatically improve your brain’s ability to learn. A 15-20 minute nap can recharge your brain and set you up for more learning. You can even combine it with the coffee tip by drinking a cup just before the nap, the caffeine kicks in while you sleep and you wake refreshed and energized.

Just remember, happy thoughts, not creepy Scientists watching your sleeping brain.

If you can’t find a place to nap or rid yourself of that image (I haven’t slept in weeks!) then meditation can also help.


You are what you eat

Like exercise, you know this one. Eat a mostly vegetable whole food based diet, avoid processed sugars, stay hydrated with water, etc etc. You need to feed your brain, but what if you could boost the benefit a bit?

WebMD has a list of brain supporting foods like Blueberries, Wild Salmon, Nuts & Seeds, Avocados, Whole grains, Beans, Pomegranate Juice, Tea and Dark Chocolate.

There’s something in that list for everyone so be good to your brain.  You know the rest.

That’s the list! I hope you found something of interest in it. If you did like it then please share and tweet to your pleasure (buttons below),  feel free to comment below but play nice! Abusive comments may be removed.

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All images courtesy of Pixabay except the title image which is copyrighted by Brain Sponge. All rights reserved.

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