How Conducive Is Your Studying Environment?

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Studying is something we all do and have experience of. Full-time students necessarily devote a lot of their time to it, whilst others may simply study instructions occasionally in order to learn how to carry out a particular task or progress a hobby further. We are familiar with the concept of study from an early age and there can be a tendency for us to downplay the serious nature of this act we are asking our brains to perform.


Consider for example, the computers with which we are all familiar. As computer buyers, we are informed of the greater efficiency of computers that have dual core processors; they can carry out at least two independent tasks at the same time. But if those tasks are complex, the computer processing speed can slow down, the system can become stressed and the in-built fan switches on to cool the processors down.

Similarly, our brains act as though they are multi-processor equipped. How else could the brain monitor and control all the vital organs of our body such as heart and lungs, co-ordinate our muscles so as to enable us to balance upright and walk, whilst at the same time tapping a text into our mobile phone? So, as with the computer, our brain can carry out tasks simultaneously, but not completely independently. The system can also become stressed. It can also slow down and perform less efficiently than it should. There is no fan in our head that switches on to cure the headache which may develop as a result of too much processing.

So, is it right to require a part of our brain to monitor the rhythm or beat of a tune whilst we are seriously studying something from a book? Many students will study whilst music is playing; often in the belief that it helps them to study. But, could it not simply be that music is pleasurable and studying is not? Are we not simply sugaring the medicinal pill? Would it not be more efficient to devote more brain processing power to the important task of studying and less to entertaining the cultural mind? We could then take a short break to de-stress the system by listening to some relaxing (or exhilarating) music.

The sensory nature of our study environment affects the efficiency with which our brains can achieve the task we set it. The more complex our environment is in terms of sound and visual inputs then the more our brain will tend to monitor it - this is an in-built safety system that has long helped to warn humans of potential danger and to allow mankind to survive as a species as long as we have done. So if we are requiring our brain to critically analyze some text, learn from it and remember it, then shouldn't we try to help our brain accomplish this task as effectively as possible by removing unnecessary sensory clutter? Sitting in a quiet area either indoors or outside may carry the 'boring' tag but it also has a greater potential to provide the much sought after 'success' tag.

We should also be wary of studying in sensory cluttered study environments simply because they may be more convenient. It may, for example, be possible to achieve the same study goal by 20 minutes of quiet study compared to 45 minutes of equivalent study carried out on a busy commuter transport system. We need to assess our study environment in terms of what can be realistically achieved in the time scale available. This is not to say that study time is a wasted effort in such sensory rich environments, but we should be aware that it is less productive and not opt for it as a favored choice. We would not be doing ourselves a service if we planned our study time primarily according to the time we spend commuting.

Finally, we should not underestimate the positive effect of studying in an environment where someone else is also studying. We are social animals and can obtain positive re-inforcement simply from the presence of another person trying to achieve a similar goal to ourselves. This does not mean that there should be significant interaction between such individuals. Social interaction is distracting whereas sitting quietly studying along with a friend can be a case of the 'whole being greater than the sum of the individual parts'.

So, plan your study environment well and give it the consideration it deserves. Go for it.



Author: Maurice Thurman

Copyright © 2012 Sandhya Maarga Holistic Living Resources
Holistic Living Annex (SEPTEMBER 2012)

5 Responses for “ How Conducive Is Your Studying Environment?”

  1. Lorna says:

    I love listening to music while studying. Studying in a quiet environment doesn't make me feel like studying at all. How do I stay motivated without music?

     
  2. Joseph F. says:

    Good article Maurice! I simply cannot imagine how people study with rock music blaring in the background. Don't you youngsters find it difficult to concentrate? My grandson claims that he cannot study unless he listens to rock music. With those beats, all that go in my head will come out eventually. Strange kids!!

     
  3. Penny James says:

    Human beings are living machines. We break down too. But no one remembers that! When you're studying, just study. Rid yourself of all the mumbo jumbos around..

     
  4. Anonymous says:

    WHAT??? NO MUSIC???? IT'LL BE LIKE IN PRISON!!

     
  5. Mali says:

    This is a very interesting article! Planning one's studying environment is extremely important in determining how much info our brains are able to absorb. I agree with the author that studying in a noisy environment is wasted energy, time and effort!

     

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