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How to get the most out of your study breaks

Turn study breaks into life breaks

Much has been written about the restorative powers of taking a study break to exercise, breathe deeply, be mindful or simply step outside. Sunlight and good, old-fashioned fresh air are known to lift the spirits. However, there’s a host of other spare-time activities that are proven boosters of mood, motivation and performance: mental states that will aid your study too.

First, silence those digital intrusions

Ring, beep, ping and tone no more… well, at least for an hour. Deactivate the alerts on all telephones, tablets and anything else that produces electronic noise pollution. Do it before you focus upon any of the below.
Research published by the official journal of the British Cardiovascular Society shows that two minutes of silence is more calming than listening to meditative music, and it can reduce blood pressure.

Tasks with benefits

Many task-oriented hobbies have a string of benefits. Some therapists advocate clearing and quietening the mind through the simple repetitive, physical and mental practice of colouring patterns in books. Neuropsychologists claim it can change heart rate and brainwaves. The mechanics of knitting or crocheting can have the same effect. Model making, cooking and playing video games are other activities that facilitate calm through concentration, creativity and coordination. They involve doing things in the right order, making the right choices and monitoring your progress – so have cognitive benefits too.
Model making, cooking and playing video games are other activities that facilitate calm through concentration, creativity and coordination. They involve doing things in the right order, making the right choices and monitoring your progress – so have cognitive benefits too.
Gardening has the above plus it’s a fabulous way to have routine contact with the natural world. Planting, pruning, watering and weeding are nurturing and require responsibility for other life. That can be a joy.

Absorbing yourself in the worlds of others

Few things broaden the mind more than delving into different realms. The process is relaxing as well as enlightening.
It’s very difficult to read fiction and do other things at the same time so reading is truly mindful. You need to sit and relax to start doing it. A great way to escape the trials and tribulations of everyday life is to get lost in someone else’s fiction. Focusing upon the concerns of others relaxes, enhances problem-solving, contextualises knowledge and boosts emotional intelligence.
If reading is not for you, there are other ways of becoming part of someone else’s universe – through other fictional forms such as watching films or radio plays, of course. However, an activity such as birdwatching serves the same purpose. Observe how birds nest, swarm and take note of their markings and colours.

Express yourself

Psychologists and creative writers alike recommend freewriting – the act of sitting down with a blank sheet of paper and writing whatever comes into your head for 5 to 10 minutes without stopping. At first, this can feel a little odd but it’s a wonderful way of being creative and of expressing yourself without self-judgment. The key is to write without pause.
Don’t stop to monitor what you write or correct grammar or edit in any other way. Freewriting is used by professional writers as a warm-up technique and was popularised as a therapy for silencing your inner critic and dealing with trauma. But it’s now entered the mainstream.
Painting can bring all sorts of wonders depending upon how you approach it. It can be the visual equivalent of freewriting or a more focused activity if – for instance you’re working from a photograph. Either way, it’s a great way to get “you” down on paper or canvass. Sculpture can be even more mindful as it takes many steps to create a work.
Dancing, acting and playing a musical instrument require mastering routine, setting targets, dedication, memory, motor skills as well as abilities in story-telling and the ability to enter the lives of others. These are superb competencies – not just for leisure time but for your career and the rest of life.
You may want to publish your performance, and that’s ever easier online – or go one step further and launch your own amateur radio show where you’ll also learn about scheduling and responding to audience stats.

If performance art is not to your liking, you might like to mould your creative forces through some home décor instead.

Learning and strategy

Develop yourself through learning new things and playing brain games.

Learning new subjects and skills can be self-directed – through your own reading and viewing – or it can be guided by others. Whether you’re learning a new language or enrolled on a self-help course, equipping yourself with new competencies can be a great morale booster.
Brain teasers and games such as chess, crossword puzzles and Sudoku strengthen the brain’s neuroplasticity – its ability to create and rewire its synaptic connections and neural pathways. This can translate into increased mental resilience.
You might also want to track and celebrate your cumulative learning in other words to journal EVERYTHING you learn – and integrate your knowledge throughout everything you do. This can be very powerful.

And don’t dismiss the benefits of daydreaming, which can also tap into your creative side.

Finally, don’t forget that relaxing bubble bath.

Remove yourself from the hurly burly of your shared living environment and have a good soak. And if you live by yourself, don’t deny yourself the pleasure of a leisurely bath. There’s always something to close the door on before you wash away your concerns.

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