6 Smart Ways to Prepare for Finals That Don't Involve Studying - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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April 15, 2019

6 Smart Ways to Prepare for Finals That Don't Involve Studying

Know the secret to acing your upcoming finals? Hint: It does not involve a 24-hour cramathon. In fact, the steps to success are better begun a couple months prior to finals.

Instead of focusing so much on your study skills, make sharpening your brain’s cognitive skills the goal. Cognitive skills include:

  •     Thinking
  •     Learning
  •     Reasoning
  •     Remembering
  •     Focusing
  •     Problem-solving

Here are some proven and painless ways to improve your cognitive functioning so you're clear-headed and firing on all synapses when you study and test.

1) Move more/breathe more

Every cell in your body needs oxygen to produce energy, and your busy brain is no exception. In fact, your brain uses three times more oxygen than the muscles in your body, according to the National Association for Child Development (NACD). Oxygen is vital for brain health, and two of the best ways to increase oxygen delivery to your brain are exercise and deep breathing.

The good news is: Short walks are even better for your brain than a 6-mile run. NACD explains, “Short walks will increase your circulation and increase oxygen to your brain, whereas while forced walks or runs may be good for you too, they also cause your muscles to absorb much of the oxygen in your system, and that hinders increasing the oxygen being carried to your brain.”

As you walk, breathe with your belly in a relaxed way, and breathe through your nose. Maybe play some inspiring Christian female vocalists on your iPod to further enhance the experience.

Fitness Magazine cites a study in “Psychophysiology” finding that women who exercise outperform their peers on difficult cognitive tasks. This is because they’ve got more oxygen flowing through their brains' anterior frontal regions (the region involved with both decision-making and memory retention).

2) Pump weights for better focus

Strength training requires a lot of focus. You have to be mindful of your form to avoid injury and get maximum results. If you’re easily distracted while trying to study or can’t concentrate when pressured by a tough exam, try more time in the gym.

A “Journal of Applied Physiology” review of more than 100 studies found that the more you perform focused strength workouts, the more you're able to avoid distractions outside the gym, reports Fitness Magazine.

3) Spend time on your exercise mat

Can you believe that just one 20-minute stretching and breathing session can dramatically improve your brain power? A study from the University of Illinois using 30 young female undergraduate students found that after a single 20-minute session of yoga, participants’ had significant improvements in “speed and accuracy on tests of working memory and inhibitory control, two measures of brain function associated with the ability to maintain focus and take in, retain and use new information.”

Even more exciting, researchers discovered “Participants performed significantly better immediately after the yoga practice than after moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise for the same amount of time.”

4) Cross-train your brain with neurobic workouts

As silly as it may sound (and look), brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand, which engages the opposite side of your brain, “can result in a rapid and substantial expansion of in the parts of the cortex that control and process tactile information from the hand,” reports

Business Insider.

Keep your brain fit and healthy by giving it mini-mental-workout exercises to prevent memory loss and sharpen your mind. Another easy exercise is just changing up your morning routine. Shower before breakfast, take a different route to school, or listen to music instead of watching TV over dinner.

“Brain imaging studies show that novel tasks exercise large areas of the cortex, indicating increased levels of brain activity in several distinct areas. This activity declines when the task becomes routine and automatic,” notes Business Insider.

5) Increase your nightly Zzzs

As tempting as it may be to skimp on your sleep when the pressure of finals kicks in, you need your deep REM sleep more than ever. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) reports that getting enough sleep on a regular basis is especially important for students: “Sleep feeds creativity, synthesizes new ideas, and leads you to ‘ah ha’ moments. Research shows that we need good sleep to feed our high-level, innovative thinking and problem-solving abilities."

Also key for students prepping for finals: "Studies suggest that sleeping shortly after we learn new information helps us retain and recall that information later,” states the NSF.

6) Feed your brain fish

Like salmon? Fire up the grill and eat your fill of this brain-boosting fish that’s packed with the omega-3 fatty acids so crucial for brain performance.  Medical News Today cites a 2017 study that found “people with high levels of omega-3s had increased blood flow in the brain. The researchers also identified a connection between omega-3 levels and better cognition, or thinking abilities.”

Your body can't manufacture these essential fatty acids, so it's important to get them from food. Choose wild salmon over farmed salmon for its higher levels of omega-3s. Other oily fish that are good sources of omega-3s include halibut, tuna, sardines, mackerel and herring. Bon brain appetit!

If you’d like to learn more about professions that enable you to serve wholeheartedly and faithfully in your life’s work or want to learn more about a biblically based, Christ-centered education at Geneva, we’d love to chat with you. For more information on how Geneva College can help you pursue your education goals, please phone us at 855-979-5563 or email web@geneva.edu.