Written by Maria Cassidy
Ask most people and they’ll say learning is pretty fun! Or, at least it was when they were younger. After a packed semester of school, cramming for APs or competitions, or imagining the pressure of a future career, you might be experiencing some serious academic fatigue.
If you’re looking for a way to heal your brain’s relationship to academic learning, try these three hacks:
1) Follow a Creator Who’s Passionate
I still remember my high school calculus teacher: his tie swung back and forth as he excitedly paced across the room, his energy contagious. When you feel like mindlessly binge-watching, try to intentionally choose Youtube videos by educational creators like Cinema Therapy, Legal Eagle, and ‘Expert Explains in 5 levels.’
In doing so, your brain will remember that knowledge, facts, and problem-solving are an everyday part of everyone’s life, not something to shy away from. You’ll likely feel happier watching others passionately break down real-life psychology, law, and science. Moreover, a well-paced critique, analysis, or myth-buster will be more likely to satisfy your initial content craving, putting you back in control of your attention and time.
2) Link Incentives and Guilty Pleasures
We’ve all heard the classic advice to ‘make a reward system for yourself.’ How do you do that when you can just skip the work and have the ice cream?
Here’s the real question: what have you been on the fence about? For example, I could never decide how much of my income was ‘reasonable’ to put towards a vacation fund rather than savings. I decided that for every hour I “studied,” I would add $5 to an account I could only spend on fun things! But ‘study’ was even a very loose term — it could be trying to get 100% on third grade math on Khan Academy, cooking a new recipe, or reading something interesting! Anything that got the logical juices flowing or made the thought of trying a new skill exciting.
Still sound daunting to come up with an incentive on your own? Just try to remember that the end goal isn’t to “be more creative,” but to give yourself more inner freedom and self-love.
3) Go Down the Rabbit Hole with Friends
This is my favorite pro tip for healing a relationship with learning, because it’s all about re-igniting our natural curiosity. Even more, it builds on something you already love and uses the sustainable fuel of social interaction. It’s deceptively simple: ask questions.
Let yourself pause while watching sports — what kind of strength training does Steph Curry need to be able to jump high enough to block Yao Ming? What’s the history of trying to cheat in the Olympics? When watching MCU time travel shenanigans, does Einstein’s theory of relativity hurt or help how Tony Stark solves this fictional problem? Why is it that movies care so much about Russian spies but not, say, French spies?
And once you get curious about something, share it with friends! Racing to see who can find the easiest to understand article feels way different than reading a textbook on your own. Shooting ideas back and forth about “what if __” is much more energizing than hitting dead ends of thoughts solo.
Getting creative with questions, incentives, and screen time can revitalize how we feel about learning. The sneaky perk to these hacks is realizing you can like subjects you didn’t in school. For example, I never considered myself a “history person,” but after putting these three practices into habit, I realize I find a lot of joy in understanding pieces of international relations, especially as it relates to the Olympics and spy movie tropes.
Good luck, and happy learning!