Numerous benefits are associated with taking study breaks. While some students may feel that cramming or a marathon study session is the best way to prepare for an exam, science says otherwise. Taking breaks not only helps improve concentration but also improves retention. Scheduling small distractions to give your mind a break can help you be more successful.
The Benefits of Taking Study Breaks
The benefits of taking study breaks aren’t anecdotal — they’re backed by science. In 2021, researchers at the National Institutes of Health announced that taking short breaks is key to learning. Their study reported that wakeful rest (i.e., taking breaks) has been shown to improve retention of new information and skills. Allowing yourself some mental downtime during study sessions may allow you to learn more effectively.
How Often Should You Take Study Breaks?
The Pomodoro Technique is a popular time management tool that encourages people to break larger tasks into smaller ones. Developed in the late 1980s by university student Francesco Cirillo, the technique involves breaking tasks up into small, bite-sized pieces rather than trying to tackle entire projects at once. Cirillo recommends students take a five-minute study break every 25 minutes. However, if you’ve spent the past three hours working on a paper, a 30-minute study break may work better.
Study Break Ideas You Can Use to Regain Focus
Allowing yourself a much-needed study break is an assuredly good thing but be sure to stay on track. Taking a few minutes to check your text messages or log onto your social media accounts is fine, as long as you don’t accidentally burn an hour checking out cat memes. If you’re looking for study breaks that don’t involve using your smartphone, below you’ll find eight ideas that can refresh your mind.
1. Take Yourself (or Your Dog) for a Quick Walk
Walking not only helps get your heart pumping, a 2021 study published in NeuroImage found it can also improve your cognitive function. If you’ve been indoors studying all day, grabbing your headphones and taking a stroll around the block will give you a much-needed break from the books.
The Mayo Clinic reports that meditation can help reduce stress and anxiety. People can practice meditation wherever they are — at home, at the library, at a coffee shop — because it doesn’t require special equipment.
3. Indulge Yourself by Reading or Watching 20 Minutes of Your Favorite Book or Show
Reading (or watching) something fun is a great way to break up a study session. It can also help give your brain a break as it shifts to processing entertaining (as opposed to academic) content.
4. Treat Yourself to a Coffee
Have you been studying at home all day? Grab your keys and head to your favorite coffee shop for a quick pick-me-up. Not only will this get you out of the house, Healthline reports moderate consumption of coffee can help boost brain function.
5. Take a Power Nap
Studies have shown that even a 10-minute power nap can help improve memory and cognitive performance. If you just want to catch a few Z’s (so you can dive back into your studies feeling refreshed), don’t forget to set an alarm.
6. Do Yoga or Take a Quick Bike Ride
Exercise can help improve your memory and your concentration. A 2021 article in The New York Times reports that exercise “prompts the creation of new neurons in the brain’s memory center and then helps those new cells survive, mature and integrate into the brain’s neural network, where they can aid in thinking and remembering.”
7. Make Yourself a Healthy Snack
Concentrating while hungry is difficult at best. Eating brain-healthy foods, such as blueberries, nuts, dark chocolate, and pumpkin seeds, can help satisfy your stomach and improve your ability to focus.
8. Straighten Up
Lots of people find that it’s difficult to study in a cluttered environment. Taking 20 minutes to put away the dishes, start a load of laundry, or take out the trash will not only give you a break from your books but may help you study more effectively.
Get Refreshed and Stay on Track
Study breaks aren’t just beneficial for people who are preparing for midterms or finals. Taking breaks from longer, more intensive work projects can help keep you on track. If you’re brushing up on study tips because you’ve been thinking about going back to school to earn a certificate or a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree, discover how Maryville University’s online programs can help prepare you for the next chapter in your career.
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BetterUp, “Food for Concentration: 10 Foods to Help You Focus”
Brainscape, “How and When to Take Study Breaks for Optimal Learning”
Healthline, “Is Coffee Good for Your Brain?”
HelpGuide, “Health Benefits of Walks with Your Dog”
Mayo Clinic, Meditation: A Simple, Fast Way to Reduce Stress
Medium, “Why Study Breaks Are So Important for Students”
National Institutes of Health, “Study Shows How Taking Short Breaks May Help Our Brains Learn New Skills”
NeuroImage, “White Matter Plasticity in Healthy Older Adults: The Effects of Aerobic Exercise”
The New York Times, “How Exercise May Help Keep Our Memory Sharp”
Todoist, “The Pomodoro Technique”