Get the most out of studying with these tips to help keep your mind and memory sharp.

As the new school year begins, it’s a good idea to brush up on how to get the most out of your study sessions before hitting the books. Luckily, a few simple actions can dramatically boost your memory recall, and when that first midterm rolls around, you’ll be glad you did.

Take Breaks

One of the biggest mistakes a student can make when studying is cramming for too long. The brain needs rest just as much as anything else, and slogging away for hours will only cause more harm than good when you’re trying to retain loads of information. After 90 minutes spent on one topic, your ability to remember, and even just concentrate, goes down significantly. As a result, it’s best to try and take a quick break every 90 minutes or so in order to prevent wasting your time.

Write Things Down

While it may seem obvious, the very act of writing something down has been shown to better cement a thought or idea, even without ever revisiting whatever notes you may have taken. The reason is that the amount of effort it takes to read something is far less than it is to put into your own words, so the amount of concentration required leads to a much more significant imprint left on the brain. However, as you are likely aware, always avoid taking verbatim notes, and be sure that what you write down is the most vital information that you are hearing or reading.

Exercise

Psychologists have recently discovered just how important physical health can relate to the brain, and that a holistic approach to maintaining both a sound body and mind can improve your overall happiness, as well as helping the brain function efficiently. Exercise helps your body transmit oxygen to all parts of your body more easily, leading to increased brain function as a result while also preventing against ailments that are known to affect the memory, like diabetes.

Sleep

One of the main purposes of REM sleep is to not only rest your body, but help your brain replenish its energy and encode experiences from your previous day into memories. It should also go without saying that being sleep deprived will slow cognitive function and greatly reduce your ability to be creative and solve problems. Therefore, be careful about all-night cram sessions as you may find that all that studying will seem to evaporate as soon as you sit down to take your test.

Food

Unsurprisingly, nutrition plays a huge roll in brain chemistry. One of the most important vitamins to your brain’s health is Omega-3, found in oily fish like tuna, salmon and sardines.  If you’re a vegetarian or simply don’t like fish, try fish oil supplements as well as soybeans, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds and walnuts, which are all rich in Omega-3. Additionally, eating food rich in antioxidants is helpful in preventing brain damage, so be sure to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your diet in order to boost brainpower.

De-Stress

College students these days are notoriously overworked, especially if they’re working while taking classes. As a result, it’s very easy to become overworked and stressed out, which is highly detrimental in keeping focused. Stress receptors called corticosteroids have been shown to adversely affect how our brain processes information and can prevent you from thinking clearly. The practices above, like excercise and being mindful of taking breaks, greatly aid in keeping you sharp when trying to soak in information. Make sure you also take time out of your day for enjoyment, as laughter and socialization can not only help you destress, but engage the areas of the brain responsible for creativity.