How to Take a Study Break, Properly!
Study breaks are an integral part of the learning process. No one can continuously study for hours on end and retain information. The best thing to do when you hit the academic study wall head on is to take a study break. New research shows that there are things that we should do and not do during our study breaks.
ART therapy is not a therapy exercise where you work out your issues by throwing paint at the walls. ART therapy stands for attention restoration therapy. The idea was first brought up by psychologist William James back in the late 1800’s. ART therapy tells us that taking a walk in the woods as a study break is much more effective than walking down the street or surfing the internet on your iPad. Why is this better you ask?
James stated that activities like walking down the street still require a lot of active attention because the mind has to be active to ensure you are not hit by a car, or run into someone else on the street, etc. ART describes nature as the natural world and city streets as the artificial world. According to James, the artificial world, and all of its hazards and stimuli, do not allow for the brain to adequately relax. Even though you are not studying your mind is still racing as you walk down the street because the artificial world still demands active attention to your surroundings. In other words, taking a break in the artificial world does not really qualify as a mental break.
On the other hand, taking a nice walk in the natural world allows the mind to not be actively engaged. Your mind can rest at ease by simply enjoying the safety and tranquility of nature. This, says James, will truly allow your mind to recharge and allow you to refocus on your studies. In short, nature is good for you.
James’ ART therapy theory was put to the test by researchers who had people perform mental exercises. The two groups of people would do simple math equations then take a study break. One group would look at visuals of urban settings while the other group would look at pictures of natural settings. Both groups would then go back to doing math equations. Researchers found that both groups’ scores went up, but the people who viewed the natural visuals performed much better.
This research certainly provides food for thought about how you spend time during a study break. Next time you take a study break take a walk outside if you’re anywhere near a nature trail. If you aren’t, then try looking at some visuals of outdoor scenes. This will allow your mind to relax and recharge for the next study session. If you live in a city, and would have a hard time getting to “nature” quickly, then enhance your study area with some plants, as this will help.
It’s best to take a study break every so often. All students are different. If you can study in a focused manner for two hours before taking a break then do so. There is no hard or fast rule for when to take a study break despite what you may hear. What are your habits for study patterns? We’d love to hear them!