How to Sleep Amazingly Well – And Wake Up Refreshed

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Now that final exams are almost here – and term papers need to get turned in – its time to make sure youre getting enough rest.

You see, proper rest is vital to keeping your brain functioning to its full potential. Quality sleep is also important so that you can stay energized and focused on your various assignments.

Stanford University published a great list of ways to help you sleep better. Heres an excerpt:

Take a hot bath.
People with trouble falling asleep might benefit from taking hot baths about 90 minutes before bedtime, the researchers speculate. When they get out of the bath, body temperature will drop rapidly, and that might help them to fall asleep faster

Drink some warm milk.
If youre stomach is empty, it can interfere with your sleep schedule.However, a heavy meal can also interfere with good sleep. Dairy products and turkey contain tryptophan, which acts as a natural sleep inducer. Try a warm glass of milk before bed.

Dont take naps.
Try not to nap during the day. A nap will often it make it more difficult to go to bed at night.

If you dont fall asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something boring.
Staying in bed longer wont help you fall asleep. If youre having trouble sleeping, get out of bed until you feel tired. You need to teach your body that your bed is a place of sleeping – not worrying, brainstorming, or thinking about tomorrow.

Dont expose yourself to bright lights.
Dim your lights prior to bed, and refrain from turning on bright lights if you wake up during the night to use the restroom. Bright lights signal to your brain that its day. Try to only use dim lights at night.

Check out the other ways to sleep better . . .

How Video Games Can Improve Your Mind

Researchers at the University of Rochester compared the attentional blink of video gamers against people who rarely play any video games at all. They found that gamers are able to simultaneously spot more of what they wanted to see in a quicker time frame. This research suggests that gamers can skim books quicker, and will be able to find the information they need much faster than non-gamers. [Read the video game research from Mind Hacks]

Hack Your Mind with These Memorization Techniques

California Polytechnic State University provides 10 tips to help students memorize information better.

Here are some of my favorite tips:

Use all your senses. When we are learning, we should try not only to get a strong impression but to obtain as many different kinds of impressions as possible. Some people can remember colors distinctly, but have a poor memory for shapes. But anyone, by putting together and using all of the impressions our sense organs bring us about a thing, can remember it much more clearly than if we rely on sight or sound alone. For example, try reading your lesson aloud. In doing this, your eye takes in the appearance of the printed word, your ear passes the sound of the words to your brain, and even the tension of the muscle of your throat add their bit to the total impression which your mind is expected to store away.

Intend to remember. The mere intention to remember puts the mind in a condition to remember, and if you will make use of this fact in studying you will be able to recall between 20 and 60 percent more of what you read and hear than you would if you were not actively trying to remember.

Logical memory. One of the most important of all aids to the remembering process is the habit of associating a new idea immediately with facts or ideas that are already firmly lodged in the mind. This association revives and strengthens the old memories and prevents the new one form slipping away by anchoring it to the well-established framework of your mental world.

How much study? You should study more than enough to learn your assignment. Experiments have proven that 50% more resulted in 50% better retention. After a week had passed, it was found that extra work had salvaged six times as much of the material as in the case when it was barely learned

Read the other memorization tips . . .

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How to Add RAM to Your Brain – 8 Memory Hacks

You can instantly retrieve more information faster and easier by memorizing data in organized patterns.

Here are 8 ways to make information cement in your mind:

1. Acronyms
I’ve used acronyms throughout my college and grad school career. They’ve helped me memorize information for class presentations, and helped me memorize details for exams. An acronym is simply a word wherein each letter represents another word. For example: HOMES (The Great Lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior)

2. Acrostics
Acrostics are sentences in which the first letter of each word helps you remember items in a series. For example: Zoe Cooks Chowder In Pink Pots in Miami (The Essential Minerals: Zinc, Calcium, Chromium, Iron, Potassium, Phosphorus, Iodine, Magnesium).

3. Act it Out
Use your acting ability to make a connection with the material you’re trying to learn. For example: reenact a dialog between two historic figures – or carry on a debate between two different philosophers, politicians or literary critics.

4. Categories
Organize information into broad categories to help you remember information faster. For example: Types of Joints in the Body (Immovable, Slightly Movable, Freely Movable).

5. Peg Words
Develop a chain of associations between whatever list you need to memorize and a peg word. Peg words are associated with numbers (e.g. zero is hero; one is a bun; two is a shoe; three is a tree; four is a door; five is a hive; six is sticks; seven is heaven; eight is a gate; nine is wine; and ten is a hen). Here’s how peg words work with the atomic numbers in a periodic table: (1) Imagine a hydrogen hotdog on a bun; (2) Imagine a helium shoe balloon; (3) Imagine a lit tree on fire (lithium); (4) a door made of berries (beryllium); (5) a hive with bored bees (boron); and the list can go on. The odd pairing helps you memorize information quickly.

6. Rhymes
Make up a silly rhyme or pun to help you memorize information. For example: Brown vs. Board of Education ended public-school segregation.

7. Recordings
Make a recording of yourself giving a lecture about the subject you’re studying. This is especially helpful for foreign language classes or a vocabulary section on a standardized test.

8. Visualizations
Turn an abstract idea into an image of something that is as specific as possible. For example, visualize a scene from a historic period. Make it as real as possible in your mind. Use all your senses and imagine what it must smell like, feel like, etc. The more specific you are, the more you’ll remember.

What are some strategies you use to memorize information faster?

[Photo by Rofi]

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How to Study Smarter, Not Harder

Dartmouth published a paper discussing ways for students to improve their memory as they study. These tips will help any student study smarter, not harder. Here are some of our favorite study tips:

Recite As You Study
Recitation should first take place as you read through each paragraph or section. Quiz or test yourself. This promotes understanding as well as faster learning because it is a more active process than reading or listening. It also tests understanding, revealing mistakes or gaps. Recite in your own words. Auditory learners should spend more time in reciting orally what they are learning than visualizers. Read aloud passages you find difficult.

Take Fuller Notes
Visual learners should take fuller notes during lectures and their readings, as they learn more readily by visualizing than hearing. Auditory learners should take fuller notes perhaps on their readings. Notes should be in your own words, brief, clear but succinct. They should be legible and neat. Writing notes better reinforces memory than mere underlining, which is frequently done mechanically , often to excess and does not check understanding.

Study the Middle
The best time to review is soon after learning has taken place. The beginning and the end of material is best remembered, so pay close attention to the middle which is likely to be forgotten. The peak of difficulty in remembering is just beyond the middle, toward the end. change your method of review.

Sleep On It
Study before going to bed unless you are physically or mentally overtired. Freshly learned material is better remembered after a period of sleep than after an equal period of daytime activity because retroactive interference takes place.

Connect Ideas Whenever Possible
There are two ways to memorize: by rote (mechanically) and by understanding. Multiplication tables, telephone numbers, combinations to safes, and the like are better learned by rote. ideas, concepts, theories and significances and the like are learned by understanding. Sometimes they work simultaneously.

The more association you can elicit for an idea, the more meaning it will have; the more meaningful the learning, the better one is able to retain it. Always note similarities in ideas and concepts, and put them in their proper place in a larger system of ideas, concepts and theories. A bare literal understanding is often of little valuable. Never be satisfied with a hazy idea of what you are reading. If you are not able to follow the thought, go back to where you lost the trail.

Read ways to help you study smarter. . .

The Cure for Writers Block -10 Ways to Jumpstart Your Brain

As an English Lit. major in college, I had to write dozens of essays a quarter.

And, unfortunately, I got hit with writers block on a regular basis.

I tried to combat it by spending more time researching in the library, but that just made my problem worse.

You see, even though research is important it didnt help me write my paper. In fact, Ive found that research just helped me procrastinate more.

So how do I cure my bouts with writers block?

Here are 10 ways that have helped me write when Im not in the mood:

1. Relax your mind.
The more you worry about not having ideas, the more youll freeze up your mind. You need to relax and think positively about your writing assignment. Realize that everyone goes through writers block, and the cure is to relax your mind.

2. Take a hot shower.
I dont know what it is about a hot shower, but it really helps me refresh my body and mind. The hot shower helps me relax and focus on my writing assignments. Its also a place where I brainstorm easily. Take a notepad and leave it next to your shower door for when the ideas start flowing.

3. Write freely.
Whenever Im at a loss for words, Ill just start writing. It doesnt matter what you write, just write something. The very act of getting words on a page will help you build confidence, and help your mind to start pumping out your thoughts.

4. Write what you would say to your friend.
Sometimes it helps me to pretend that Im explaining the subject to a friend. By imagining a conversation with a friend, it helps me write what I would say – and this is a great way to trick yourself into writing.

5. Dont worry about punctuation or organization.
When youre struggling with writers block, this is not the time to focus on punctuation or how youre organizing your paper. You want to eliminate everything that stands between you and getting words on a page. So just write and dont worry about anything else.

6. Take deep breaths.
There are many benefits to breathing deeply in meditation, and one of them is to help you refresh your mind. I personally like Dr. Weils deep breathing exercises when Im feeling tired and uninspired:

  1. Inhale through your nose for four seconds
  2. Hold your breath for seven seconds
  3. Exhale through tightly pursed lips, creating back pressure, for eight seconds.
  4. Do this eight times, twice a day, everyday.

7. Move around.
Get your body moving and possibly even try writing in a new location. Just by moving around will get your blood pumping faster and will help you feel more energized.

8. Concentrate on a different section of your paper.
If youre stuck writing your introduction, just skip it. Start writing another section. Dont worry if you dont have the best paragraph structure – just write and the words will start to flow. You can always edit later.

9. Listen to music.
Sometimes listening to classical music or jazz can help you start writing. It doesnt work for everyone, but Ive found that it can help me block out any surrounding noises and focus on my writing. Try music when youre out of words.

10. Dont worry about failing.
Look, a lot of people get writers block because they think theyre afraid of failure – or they think they cant write a good paper. You have to get rid of that negativity and start writing. The more you write, the better your paper will be. You can always edit it later – and find a friend to proofread it to give you some suggestions.

So just start writing . . .

Memorizing Dates and Numbers Quickly

There are a lot of techniques to help you memorize numbers and dates quickly. One of my favorites involves associating numbers with letters.

For example:

0 = Z or S (zero)
1 = T or D (one downstroke)
2 = N (two downstrokes)
3 = M (three down strokes)
4 = R (R looks like 4 backwards)
5 = L (Roman Numeral for 50 is L)
6 = G (six looks like a G)
7 = K
8 = F
9 = P (9 looks like a P backwards)

You can associate any number with any letter, but the key is to memorize one letter for each number. Any letter not associated with a number doesn’t mean anything.

So this is how it works:

Let’s pretend you had to memorize that George Washington was born in 1732. To do this, you simply substitute the numbers for letters.

In this case: 1732 = TKMN

TKMN doesn’t make any sense, so you can add vowels to develop a fun way to associate TKMN with George Washington.

For example:

Take Men George Washington had to take men to war
Took Men George Washington took men to war
Teak Man Imagine George Washington made out of teak

The more creative you can use the letters, the better youll remember the date.

Why You Should Talk to Yourself After Studying

The next time you finish studying, Id like for you to give yourself a 5 minute lecture on what you just read.

Yeah, I know it sounds crazy, but just give it a try.

You see, one way to help new ideas cement in your mind is to recite them back to yourself.

If you simply read a textbook passively, you will probably remember less than a third of what you should within a few days. And you will probably remember a lot less two months later.

However, if youre actively reading and reciting key concepts back to yourself it will help connect these ideas to your core memory.

And if youre able to attach these new ideas to subjects you already know well, this will help the new ideas stick in your mind much longer – and much easier.

So talk to yourself after youve studied.

Its a great way to test yourself on what you just read. And it will force your mind to remember more and more each time you study.

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Flash Card Hacks

Flash cards can help you memorize information quickly and more efficiently.

As long as you carry them with you, you can study whenever you have a free moment. You’d be surprised how many times during a day you can break them out and start studying.

And flash cards can be used to narrow down the subjects and terms you’re having the toughest time learning. As you practice, you can start creating two stacks of cards: the stack of cards you know well, and the cards you still need to study.

Flash cards not only help you learn quicker, but it builds your confidence with the material you’re learning.

Here are 5 great websites that you can use to create, share, and find free flash cards:

Flash Card Wiki
Create and share your web-based flash cards

Pauker Open Source Flash Cards
Create and import your flash cards

Pro Profs Flash Cards
Tons of free flash cards ready to download

Flash Card Machine
Interactive web application for you to create and share your flash cards

Flash Card Exchange
Print and share your flash cards

4 Easy Ways to Improve Your Brain Health published an article on maintaining a healthy brain that will function better. Here are the four keys to improving your brain health:

Physical Exercise

  • Do something you enjoy for even just 15 minutes a day. You can always add more time and activities later.
  • Schedule exercise into your daily routine. It will be become a habit faster if you do.
  • Do something cardiovascular to get your heart beating faster

Mental Exercise

  • Be curious! Get to know your local library and community college, look for local organizations or churches that offer classes or workshops
  • Work puzzles like crosswords and sudoku or play games like chess and bridge
  • Try computerized brain fitness programs
  • Learn something new every day

Good Nutrition

  • Plan your meals around your vegetables (especially leafy greens), and then add fruit, protein, dairy, and/or grains
  • Add some cold-water fish to your diet (tuna, salmon, mackerel, halibut, sardines, and herring)
  • Try to eat more foods low on the Glycemic Index

Stress Management

  • Get enough sleep each night
  • Practice meditation, yoga, or a calming activity to help you relax
  • Set aside 5 to 10 minutes to just breathe deeply

Check out the other ways to improve your brain health . . .

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