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A+ Study Tips for Exams

By on January 28, 2014
Screen shot 2014 01 28 at 9.43.29 AM 300x336 - A+ Study Tips for Exams

   What student doesn’t want to do better? In essence every student could improve, some a little, others a lot.  This does not just apply to school. All of us are students – we learn and are must perform mental tasks each and every day for our career, relationships and life in general. Consider these natural health approaches and study tips for exams.

Establish the Right Environment
    Effective studying is a complex activity requiring a myriad of intricate brain connections to occur. But, first we have to be ready to study. Know what environment suits you best. Do you perform better in absolute quiet, with background noise, full on volume or somewhere in between? This knowledge is key. If you can’t be effective in the environment you study in, then no amount of effort, or diligence will result in success.
    Ensure you are comfortable and the lighting is suitable to see what you need to study. If it is too bright or too dark you run the risk of strained eyes, leading to headaches, distraction and the inability to study effectively.    
Tackle Barriers to Success
    Number one on this list is a double-edged sword named stress. Nothing motivates some students to learn like threats from parents combined with the prospect of a dead end career. However, there is also a strong link between elevated stress and memory loss. There have been numerous clinical studies on this subject and researchers believe that some of the hormones our bodies release when under stress “the stress hormones” can be neurotoxic over time (damaging the key cells that transmit and process signals in your brain and other parts of your nervous system). This may explain why some people become physically ill in stressful situations. 
    In order to minimize “stressful situations” when studying do something relaxing (exercise, listen to music) to dial down stress levels before you begin studying. 

The Caffeine Connection 
    Does caffeine help studying? We know that caffeine is a stimulant, causing increased heart rate. On the plus side it does increase alertness, on the negative side it does increase agitation, restlessness and anxiety. So what does the clinical evidence show? The overall effect is that caffeine is very slightly helpful (virtually no effect) on improved memory in repetitive tasks, most of which is attributed to a reduction in boredom and fatigue from the activity. In complex learning caffeine showed non-significant effects on cognitive, learning, and memory performance, and the increased anxiety could prove to be detrimental. 

Feed the Machine
    There is a famous old computer programmer acronym, G.I.G.O. It stands for “garbage in, garbage out”. It points out that you shouldn’t expect the product of your effort to result in something better than your inputs. One of your key inputs is nutrition. Don’t sit down to study hungry, it will keep your brain focused on hunger, not on learning. But not any food will do! Junk food is garbage, and it will most likely result in garbage results. Proper eating habits (and not just the meal before studying) gives your body and most importantly your brain the nutrients it needs to stay fit and perform at peak potential.

Supplement Smart
    There are supplements that can “feed the brain” and improve your chances of success. Remember though that their effect is not instantaneous; so, like most supplements you need to include them in your daily routine to receive their benefits.
    DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) is an omega-3 essential fatty acid found in fish and algae (not in grains, seeds or vegetables). Approximately 2/3 of your brain is fat, and the most abundant fat in your brain is DHA. Unfortunately, we are quite bad at converting other omega-3 fats to DHA; so, we need to constantly ensure we are getting enough DHA each day. 
    Both ginkgo biloba, and ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) are herbs with long histories of use to improve memory, concentration and learning. They both have been shown in numerous clinical trials to improve memory, concentration and reduce stress – all of which contribute to improved learning. Ensure you are using supplements made from extracts, as this is one case where the raw herbs just aren’t strong enough to get clinically effective results.

Joel Thuna is a Master Herbalist and Natural Health researcher, author and lecturer based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. For more information visit: www.globalbotanical.com.

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