The Study Dude—Grow Your Brains

Grow your brains for higher grades.  Gray matter gains ground when you read, meditate, listen to music, do yoga, and exercise.  Who said Snoop Dog doesn’t make for A students?

So, read daily.  Fiction can boost your vocabulary, but nonfiction can groom your skills.  “Reading is not just a pastime to entertain yourself and stimulate your imagination; it is also an effective exercise for the brain to aid in faster learning” (Vang, p. 10 of 57, 13%).  More than your eyeballs get workouts when reading.

This past week, I found an online bookstore called  This bookstore sells used textbooks for prices like $3 plus shipping.  I had my heart set on an Amazon textbook priced at $160, but I found the same book on for $3.  But it takes over twenty days to ship.  Super cheap but with a ship hitch.

Reading textbooks—or most any other book—fuels the brain.  “Reading also improves blood flow to the brain, which means more oxygen is carried to it for higher functioning.  As you read, the nerve cells in your brain regenerate faster” (Vang, p. 10 of 57, 13%).  That’s why you get “test head.” Test head strikes post-exam, when you stagger out the exam room dizzy.  That’s also called blood rush to the brain.

Like reading, meditation gives rushes to the brain—feel-good rushes.  I used to meditate during anxiety attacks, but that turned to me associating meditation with anxiety.  So, I foolishly fear meditation.  However, “psychologists say that deep meditation reduces the secretion of the stress hormone cortisol, and instead, increases the secretion of dopamine and serotonin, two feel-good hormones that control mood and other biological functions” (Vang, p. 15 of 57, 19%).  Thus, fearing meditation seems as foolish as screaming at the sight of salad.

Like reading and meditation, music also aids the brain.  While my friend’s elderly mother was dying, we played a classical music CD for her.  And now that classical CD brings memories of this dear woman.  Classical music does more than skip the heartbeat; it also “has been discovered to increase intelligence … especially among kids … According to experts, music stimulates the brain to release various hormones that aid the brain into thinking clearer and processing information faster, and at the same time, smoothen out the mood to make you more emotionally stable” (Vang, p. 16 of 57, 22%). Yes, Bach’s got your back, come test time.

But why do musicians seem to churn out their best music while they are young—music which they play on stage decades later?  Well, maybe their youthful creative bursts have to do with healthier, younger brains.  But fit older musicians—and students—might also have an edge: “Gyms offer a variety of exercises, and that is exactly what your brain needs to produce more BDNF or brain – derived neurotrophic factor – a hormone that stimulates the growth and repair of brain cells” (Vang, p. 22 of 57, 32%).  So, when brain cells burst, bulk ‘em up with a bench press.

Yoga boosts brain power, too.  And while I love yoga, martial arts are my favorite past-time; it’s yoga on steroids.  I seem to shrug off slow-moving sports.  Baseball bores me but hockey or soccer gets my heartbeat pumping.  As for yoga, “Bikram yoga, a yoga done in a heated room, is still mental but is more physical.  Bhramari pranayama, on the other hand, is a type of yoga that is more mental but still requires physical accuracy” (p. 16 of 57, 24%).  I prefer Bikram yoga—it gives a double whammy sweat.

But why exercise? Dr. Amen (at 5:40 in his clip) said that your brain shrinks as you gain weight.  But the good news?  “20 minutes of running increases the size of your brain by 20%.  That can be translated to 20% improvement in speed of memorization, recalling, and response” (Vang, p. 24 of 57, 33%).  I think it should say “20 minutes a day.” Nonetheless, I just finished two hours of training.  So, I bet my brains will soon need a second head.

Unlike exercise, Phillip Vang suggests that TV makes us stupid.  I stopped watching TV when I turned fifteen.  But I returned to watching TV when I turned 24, which stirred deep-rooted guilt.  So, I ditched TV once and for all.  But ever since I got Amazon Prime, I watch health documentaries nonstop.  Do documentaries count as mental massaging or mental dodging?  “As a matter of fact, your body burns more calories when sleeping than when watching TV … As a result (of watching TV), your brain becomes less active, which makes learning more difficult” (Vang, p. 27 of 57, 38%).  So, fluff your pillows whenever your fingers twitch to switch on the TV.

Well, if listening to Snoop Dog doesn’t sound like the best way to get an A, then read his biography, dance to his jingles, or meditate on how he made it famous.  Either way, it sounds like you’ll grow your brains and get higher grades.

Vang, Phillip.  (2014).  31 Steps to Learn Smarter.  E-book.