Wednesday, June 15, 2011

3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Improve Your Language Studies

Here it is: eat, sleep, and exercise.

1. Eat - Eat 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up. Your body needs to refuel in the morning, and protein is great for your cardiovascular system, for your brain, and for your stomach.
2. Sleep - get enough sleep AND on the same schedule seven days a week. So get your 8 hours by always going to bed at the same time and always waking up at the same time.
3. Exercise - If you have the money and the space, buy a treadmill (and some ear plugs). You'll be hard pressed to find a better place to study than walking on your treadmill at 2.5 mph. You can't do too much of this.

Details below the fold...

Heart, blood, stomach, brain. The more blood to your brain, the better. The more blood you have, the better. The better your your stomach processes what you eat, the better. The better you sleep, the better your stomach works, the better your brain works. They're all connected.

Eating the 30 grams of protein in the morning refuels your body. If you slept eight hours, you went at least that long without refueling, right? So when you wake up, refuel. It gets your fire going in the morning. I usually do a whole egg mixed with a cup of 100% egg whites and microwave it, with a side of lentils. And I put salsa on my eggs for flavor, etc. Oh, and spinach, but that's not protein. (I follow the slow-carb diet prescribed by Tim Ferriss in the Four Hour Body).

Sleep. Your brain needs to rest, repair, sort information, solve puzzles, etc. The rest of your body also needs rest to repair cells, normalize levels, keeps the chemicals in your stomach balanced, etc. Consistent quality sleep (enough sleep on a consistent schedule) will help you physically and mentally.

One other note. It has been said that it can take your brain two hours to fully wake up. I haven't looked into that at all, but maybe you want to wake up at least two hours before class.

Exercise. John Medina has great stuff if you just click on that link. He has good stuff, just beware of some of his thinking as he gives his explanation as to why things are the way they are. Also, the reason the treadmill is big is because it's exercise that doesn't require much thought. That is to say, you don't have to worry about your surroundings (if you're running outside there are pedestrians, cars, buildings, plants, trees, the weather, curbs, potholes, gravel, in other words, lots of distractions - but things that won't distract you if you're on a treadmill.). If you're on a treadmill, all you have to do is not fall off. I find earplugs helpful because they block out the sound of the treadmill and anything else that might be around. If you're in a loud gym or if the TV is on, that will be distracting.

Why are we freeing up all this brainpower? So that you can study your flashcards (and also to rehearse those paradigms, os, ou, o, on, oi, own, ois, ous). Because something else happens when you're on the treadmill. Treadmill by itself is boring. Flashcards by themselves are boring. But when you pair the two things together, you've got an interesting combination. Being on the treadmill is boring, and so something less boring than being on the treadmill is to do your flashcards while you're on the treadmill. Being on the treadmill creates the psychological conditions so that the thing you'd rather be doing is to study your flashcards.

So not only are you getting the physical benefits of getting more blood and oxygen to your brain, you're also freeing up cognition to focus on your flashcards AND you've put yourself in a better mindset to study. I think that's WIN-WIN-WIN, it's either a triple win or a WIN to the third power. How much faster will you learn, and better retain, your Greek vocabulary if you study your words on the treadmill versus sitting down? The results may surprise you.

There is more advice where this came from, but you can start doing those three things now: eat, sleep, and exercise.

Yeah, the title is aimed at the Summer Greek guys, but it has wide applications beyond just them and beyond just Greek.