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Using Brain Breaks to Restore Students' Focus

Teacher sitting in a classroom with students

Are you a student looking for ways to concentrate during discussions or while studying? Or are you an educator struggling to restore your students’ focus?

You need to understand your body's needs if you want it to perform optimally. If you engage in a mentally stressful and overwhelming task, your brain may benefit from taking brain breaks. You can read more about this in this article.

Students often face real pressures, anxiety, and frustrations during their studies. There are many ways to cope with these struggles, including sports or simply trying short brain breaks.

The Science Behind Brain Breaks

The underlying concern of brain breaks is to give our brains a rest period to reset and refocus. Short mental breaks intend to help students restore their focus and increase class engagement.

Difficulty in processing and retaining information may arise due to stressful experiences(1). Your mind may feel congested during these events, similar to a traffic jam.

Research has identified stress and the hormones and neurotransmitters released during and after a stressful event as significant modulators of human learning and memory operations. However, recent research also suggests that stress may hamper memory-related activities in the brain(2).

When your brain is under stressful circumstances, your brain releases corticosteroids (a class of steroid hormones). These hormones can trigger the amygdala to instruct the hippocampus towards memory consolidation(3).

Amygdala is the part of the brain that processes emotions and fear-associated memories. On the other hand, the hippocampus is chiefly concerned with learning and memory.

Stress may signal to the brain that specific information is worth remembering. However, chronic stress can inhibit the brain’s formation of memories(4).

Examinations, strict deadlines, and interpersonal conflicts are just a few of the many incidents that can cause stress in both students and teachers.

Several difficulties in learning and remembering in the school environment may be due to stress-induced changes(5). Taking insights from psychology and neuroscience into account can improve educational processes for students.

One such insight from brain research is the potential benefits of taking brain breaks.

You may plan for brain breaks to restore the emotional state necessary to ground the amygdala to reality and make it optimal for successful information flow(6).

How Do Brain Breaks Help Students?

Research indicates that when we take breaks, our brains are busy processing memories and assisting in making sense of human experience.

For instance, a 2012 study showed that when brains are in “default mode” (a state of rest associated with mind-wandering), they remain highly active(7).

Typically, you want to introduce brain breaks just before students experience overly exhaustion or boredom.

A three to five-minute brain break or 15 minutes of active play for younger students with a shorter attention span can help students concentrate(8).

In contrast, you can call for a brain break after 30 minutes or more of studying for older students(9).

Reduce Stress, Anxiety, and Restore Focus

One study showed that active study breaks can(9):

● Relieve stress

● Improve mood

● Increase academic performance

● Improve physical health

● Increase productivity

Another study indicated that brain breaks help students focus more(10).

Resting your brain may help refresh your thinking processes and prepare your mind to learn new skills and concepts. During short brain breaks, the brain refocuses away from memorizing and thinking to another activity.