One of the things I distinctly remember from my highfaluting college theology classes is the reality of being sincerely wrong. That is, people may think that what they believe in is the truth when it actually isn’t.
With all the input that the Information Age has given us about studying, it’s no surprise that quite a few myths have slipped into the picture and have disguised themselves as truth. It’s time we separated some of these myths from the facts.
Unlearning the Myths
Somewhere along the course of our daily interaction with others, we’ve come to accept certain things as facts without first doing background checks. The following are some examples of these “facts.”
Firstly, it’s very important to keep your mind relaxed while you study, yet there is such a thing as being too relaxed. Unless your goal is really to fall asleep, studying while lying down on one’s bed is usually not a good idea.
You may have seen a movie or read a story about people falling asleep with their books under the pillows, or even listening to classes they had taped as they sleep. The supposed premise behind this is that the brain will subconsciously study and learn while the body is resting. Unfortunately, there is no substantial scientific basis for this. In fact, you’re more likely to dream while you’re asleep rather than absorb and retain your lessons.
More is Less and Vice Versa
Have you ever got the distinct feeling that some professors of yours keep trying to ram as many lessons as possible down your throat in the shortest time possible? More importantly, have you tried doing that yourself right before exams?
Human memory can retain an amazing amount of information, but it’s still limited. That’s why it’s a good idea to practice studying a little a day, everyday, instead of force feeding it all a short time before the Day or Reckoning.
Other people have tried a different kind of techniques to help themselves study better—standing on their heads, for instance. While it works great for circuses or stunts, the increased blood flow to your head will only stimulate brain activity for a short amount of time, and will actually be unhealthy in the long run. Unless you’re in the mood for a major headache, avoid doing this.
Grasping the Facts
These days, it’s not uncommon to see students highlighting passages in books or typing down notes on their high-tech doohickeys. Thing is, your memory is usually better served by jotting down notes the old-fashioned way. No one really seems to understand why, but there’s something about writing something down by hand that involves more of your brain and helps you retain information better.
When trying to learn something, the way you attempt to learn it often determines how well you actually do learn it. For instance, it’s usually a good idea to include a lot of visual aids for people who learn primarily through seeing.
Also, a purely theoretical approach isn’t quite as effective or as engaging as having students try their hand at an actual task. Even the mistakes they make along the way are essential for learning and growth.
Respecting the Differences
People learn things in different ways, at different speeds, and with different preferences. It’s not always necessary to have an atmosphere totally devoid of sound; there are actually people out there who prefer some relaxing background music or the yak-yakking of their peers’ voices. The trick is to find out what works for you and to respect that.
There may be times, however, when people will need to get out of their comfort zones—to literally and figuratively step out into different and unfamiliar surroundings—just to be able to learn better.
A literal example of this involves one of my former philosophy professors. Sometimes, he opted to hold his classes outdoors in the garden area of the university, instead of in the classroom. Needless to say, it was highly conducive to some peripatetic learning. Sometimes a change of scenery is all that’s needed to get those neurons fired up.
One Step Back, Two Steps Forward
Everyone needs a break now and then—especially in the midst of intense study. A psychology professor of mine once pointed out that human energy levels go through cycles wherein they ebb and flow after about an hour to an hour and a half. The way to make the most of these is to schedule short breaks after every hour or so of study.
This may come in the form of taking a light snack, going for a walk, doing some stretching, or doing anything that may serve as a reward for one’s hard work. Whatever you choose to do, you’ll find that your body and mind will feel renewed and ready once you return.
The Body-Mind Connection
Make sure to get adequate amounts of rest and exercise. The mind and the body are connected, so whatever affects one will eventually affect the other as well.
As far as sleep goes, note that it doesn’t necessarily have to be eight hours—what constitutes an adequate amount of sleep differs from person to person. Tiger Woods needs something like fifteen hours, while some people I’ve heard of require as little as five.
On the other hand, the interesting thing about exercise is that it stimulates the production of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and feel-good substances. We already know that having fun helps us to retain information better, and the same is true for physical activities that give us a natural high.
Doing Your Way into Feeling
Finally, pray and keep a positive attitude about your studies. Yes, I know how easy it is to get worked up over an exam, but the good news is that it’s very possible to influence your emotions so that they can work in your favor.
In a past article I wrote on preparing for entrance exams, I mentioned a technique wherein exam takers spend some time in front of the mirror every day, telling themselves that they are more than capable of doing well on the test.
There’s a reason for this: verbalize something to yourself frequently enough and you’ll eventually come to believe it. This affects your emotions to the point where you actually turn your belief into reality.
Remember: whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. Arm yourself with the right attitude and you need not be intimidated by any subject or exam ever again.