Learning a new skill can be tough. Those of us trying to master a new language, learn a musical instrument, or take an online course, will find that when the initial enthusiasm dries up, things move at a snail’s pace.
It’s easy to assume that our brains aren’t capable, but that’s not true. Anyone can master a new discipline with the right tools and strategies.
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Cardiovascular exercise makes us better learners, triggering dopamine and epinephrine in our brains, providing us with a natural memory boost.
.. or a Q&A session primes the brain to absorb the information afterward, and failing to answer it initially is part of the game.
The brain needs to know that it doesn’t know.
Continuously quizzing yourself, something called ‘retrieval practice’ jogs the memory and builds stronger traces. The harder the retrieval is, the stronger the memory formation.
Teaching others is an excellent way to gain in-depth knowledge of a subject.
Recovery is a must for learning. Taking time off does not mean more brain stimulation like TV or video games. It means just closing your eyes and doing nothing.
Surprisingly, that is when the brain gets to work, cementing what you have learned.
Spending too much time on one topic can be counterproductive. It is better to switch and rotate between topics, something called ‘interleaving’.
The technique has an in-built momentary confusion once you switch back and forth, resulting in a better long-term recall of the material.
Our memory is contextually sensitive, making our surroundings affect its functioning.
Studies show that changing the place of learning can help retain and recall the topics better.
Most learning techniques with lots of theory and colorful infographics do not assist in making the information stick in our minds.
There is a need for ‘desirable difficulties’ which exercise our minds and translate into long-term retention of knowledge.
When you explain and describe an idea in your own words, you consciously associate what you want to learn with what you've already learned.
Why it works: It encodes information into your long-term memory more effectively. The more you connect new knowledge to what you already know, the better because it generates more cues that help you retrieve the knowledge.
How to apply it: Ask yourself questions like "How can I apply this to my own life?" and "In what situations would this be useful?"
Traditionally, we’re taught to learn using the “blocking” strategy. This instructs us to go over a single idea again and again (and again) until we’ve mastered it, before proceeding to the next concept.
But several new neurological studies show that an up and coming learning method called “interleaving” improves our ability to retain and perform new skills over any traditional means by leaps and bounds.
When learning, there are times in which you are focused and times in which you allow your mind to wander. Both modes are valuable to allow your brain to learn something.
Take regular breaks, meditate, think about other things, and give yourself plenty of time in both modes.
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