Your brain is a muscle. Exercise it.

Published Friday, August 20, 2010 by Dave

Yes, Excel classes are long, but the SAT is longer.

One of the things the SAT tests you on is your ability to focus for long periods of time. If you haven’t built up your mental stamina before sitting for the test, all the tips and tricks in the world aren’t going to help very much (But your three-hour Excel classes will!).

Here’s an aggregated list of the best advice I’ve found by googling things like “mental stamina,” “improve concentration” and “brain muscle”.

Eat right. A diet that consists of “good fats” (yes, there is such a thing), antioxidants, and the right nutrients will keep your gray matter golden. To learn more about what each of these does and what you can eat to make sure you’re getting enough, take this seven-question quiz.

Exercise. Your body isn’t just for holding your head at eye-level with everyone else. Being physically fit provides the brain with oxygen and nutrients (see above). In other words, exercise can pay dividends when you study. But scientists warn that exercise and homework don’t mix. In one study, students who crammed for finals while riding exercise bikes finished their workouts just as stressed as when they started. Students who only exercised finished more refreshed and did better on tests afterward.

Sleep well. This one’s a no-brainer (Pun!). According to one study, those who sleep in actually have more mental stamina than those who awaken at the crack of dawn. “The results suggest that night owls generally outlast early birds in the length of time they can be awake without becoming mentally fatigued,” the study concluded.

Hang out. Even hermits need an occasional thought-provoking conversation to stimulate the brain. The caveat, of course, is that the conversation be thought-provoking; so hang out with smart people.

Sit up. Have a hard time concentrating? It might be because you’re not signaling your body that it’s time to focus. Lying down or slouching tells your brain it’s time to relax. Sit up straight, with your work in front of you on a well-lit table, and you’ll be telling your brain it’s showtime.

Change it up. We have habits we don’t even recognize, from which pant leg we pull on first to the order in which we brush our teeth. The reason we don’t recognize these as habits is because our brain performs them without our help. But flying on “auto pilot” means we become poor pilots when we try to do things a different way. To understand this, try eating dinner with your fork in the other hand, or even carrying your bag comfortably on the other shoulder. Ask your brain to bend in little ways and it’ll be more responsive when you put it to truly mind-bending tasks.

Say ‘Omm’. Cultivate your spiritual being. Daily meditation is a positive processes that helps the brain be strong.

Have your own advice? Share it below.


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