We know a lot of you are currently studying away for your upcoming exams; trying to cram every piece of information into your brain before the big day. It's no news that students don't live the healthiest of lives (hey, we can say that since we're students too), but powering through your work without taking breaks isn't beneficial for your productivity or mental health. That might not be news to you, but do you actually know how you should be spending your study breaks? What should you do during these breaks to increase productivity and remain energised for the tasks ahead? We decided to do some research, and put together some science-based suggestions of things to do during your study breaks - spoiler alert: TikTok didn't make the cut.
Walk it out
We've all been told to get up and get some fresh air whilst taking a study break but what's the science behind this? Are our parents/friends/significant others just trying to get us out of the house so they can get a break from us? Possibly. We have yet to find an article about that one. But what we did find is that an article by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research discovered that regular aerobic exercise - basically any type of exercise that gets your heart pumping, increases the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning. This is because when exercising, your body releases growth proteins into your blood stream which generate new neuron connections that become integrated into the hippocampal circuit. Not only that, but exercise releases endorphins - neurochemicals considered natural painkillers due to their structural similarity to morphine. So next time you're taking a study break, why not put on your your trainers and go on a brisk walk or put on a quick HIIT workout to get a sweat on and increase those neuron connections. Natcha Oceane does some great no noise, no equipment 20 minute HIIT workouts that are perfect to do indoors. Alternatively, we've even found a fun, upbeat Spotify playlist for speed walking you can check out.
Take a mindfulness break
Meditation seems to be all the rage right now and rightly so. Studies show that students who practiced Transcendental Meditation twice a day for 3 months had a 50% reduction of stress, anxiety and ADHD symptoms. Likewise, Mindfulness Meditation has been found to lead to a thickening of the brain areas involved in attention switching. One study discovered that after an 8 week mindful meditation period, adults and adolescents alike were significantly less hyperactive and could concentrate better. While much more research into this area is needed, studies have also found meditating to be on par with medication and therapy when it comes to aiding depression and anxiety. So make yourself comfortable and try meditating for 10-15 minutes the next time you take a study break. The Headspace meditation app has a student discount that lets you pay only £4.99 for the app and Spotify Premium. Alternatively, the 1 Giant Mind meditation app is free and YouTube has more meditation guide videos than you can imagine.
Grab a snack
I bet you're over the moon with this study break activity (we are too). We all know from first hand experience how stress makes us crave sugar, but stuffing yourself with junk food will only make your body create more insulin (a hormone secreted to help the absorption of sugar) to keep sugar levels consistent which will lead to a decrease in blood glucose levels and ultimately a drop in energy levels. This is more commonly known as a sugar crash and you should avoid it whilst studying for obvious reasons. So what should you be eating instead then?
One study discovered that after participants drank a smoothie made up of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries they demonstrated quicker response times to attention and task-switching tests than the placebo group. The participants also maintained and improved their cognitive performance over a period of 6h. Another study found that participants who consumed blueberries showed improvements in memory and attention when performing tasks so it's all sounding pretty promising. Berries contain high levels of antioxidants, compounds that help protect your brain from free radicals - unstable atoms that can damage healthy cells. What more convincing do you need, go get snacking!
Omega-3 rich foods
According to a study, participants who consumed high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids had better cognition and thinking abilities as well as improved blood flow to their brains. While our bodies can usually make most types of fat, it can't make Omega-3 fats which is why we need to get them from the food we consume. Omega-3s help build membranes around our body's cells, including the brain cells - neurons. Foods containing Omega-3 include nuts and seeds (especially walnuts), seafood, and soybeans. Reach for some nuts, chia pudding or fishsticks as a brain boosting study break snack.
Well, high-flavanol cocoa to be exact. Which thankfully can be found in chocolate, dark especially. When consumed in moderation, studies find that participants who consumed dark chocolate over a period of 5 days showed improved blood flow to the brain. Dark chocolate consumption is also associated with better performance in cognitive tests. We're sure we don't have to convince you guys to try snacking on this one during your study breaks but at least now you know the science behind it.
Berry smoothie before we go on a run whilst listening to meditation podcasts anyone?
In conclusion, study breaks are necessary for your mental wellbeing as well as your academic performance. Regardless how you spend your study breaks, any break is better than no break so remember to take some time out every hour or two of studying. Try to avoid long naps or mindlessly scrolling on social media (as tempting as it can be) and give berry smoothies a go (seriously, we're very sold on these berry smoothies now). We hope your exams and exam prep are going good and we look forward to having you guys read our next blog post about Becca - our wiz kid CTO. Keep your eyes peeled for that one but in the mean time check out our previous post where we covered how to prepare for your online exams and make sure to keep in touch with us on our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to find out more student life tips and other fun content! Over and out,