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8 Keys to Learning in Harmony with Your Brain


1. SLEEP: Get seven to nine hours of sleep each night and if you are 14-18 years old you need 9-10 hours of sleep each night.  Sleep is when your brain makes memories for all the day's important new learning and clears away unimportant things so it is ready to learn the next day. A brain that is sleep deprived has difficulty paying attention, remembering things, and makes more impulsive decisions.  Sleep loss depresses your immune system making getting sick more likely.


2. EXERCISE: Get regular aerobic exercise. Harvard Psychiatrist John Ratey reports in his book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain  that exercise is the single best thing a person can do to improve their learning. Aerobic exercise for 30 minutes a day improves every aspect of our brain's learning abilities. Exercise actually makes learning easier for our brains.


3. HYDRATION: Stay hydrated. A brain that is dehydrated is a brain that cannot function any where near its capacity. Dehydration leads to less energy, poorer mood and reduces the brain's ability to think clearly.


4. DIET: Eat a balanced diet and eat throughout the day. The brain runs on the energy it gets from glucose and the glucose comes from the food you eat. Trying to learn new things while hungry is not only distracting because you would like to be eating but hunger causes the brain to have access to less energy limiting its ability to pay attention and remember things. Try to eat a balanced diet and always eat before learning.


5. PRACTICE: Study by recalling things you have learned from your memory far outweighs any other form of study, like reading over your notes or texts. Each time you recall a memory that memory gets stronger and faster. Practice over time is the key to recalling the many new things you are being asked to learn in school. Use note cards to study. The question on one side, the answer on the other. This way you can study anywhere.


6. SENSES: Use as many senses as you can when learning new things. Each of our senses creates its own memory path way. So, new things that are learned by seeing, hearing and writing(touch), for example, will have three different ways the brain can connect the new learning to things you already know (prior knowledge).  This is the key to new learning.  Using 3 senses makes memories  in 3 different areas of the brain making recall easier. The sense of smell is also a powerful aid in memory. Try studying with a pleasant smell near by then keep that smell with you when you have to take a quiz or test.


7. PATTERNS: The brain learns everything in patterns. So, using familiar patterns like similarity and difference or cause and effect are easier ways to learn new things. The most common pattern to all learners is actually their own words. Putting new learning into your own words is a great way to aid remembering the information.


8. PRIOR KNOWLEDGE: Two major keys to learning in harmony with your brain are paying attention and having enough prior knowledge for your brain to connect new learning to. The brain only learns what it pays attention to and when it comes to new learning it can only pay attention to one thing at a time. The more you know about a subject (prior knowledge) the easier new learning will be. So, if you are trying to learn something you know little about seek out additional information from the teacher, the web, peers, books or videos.  It might seem like more work, but the brain learns by connecting new information to previously learned information, so you need to fill in any missing gaps as best you can.

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