At the time of study there are many factors that influence the final capacity that the student will have to internalize with greater or lesser competence the contents of learning. As we shall see below, both physical and psychological aspects will be equally decisive for achieving effective academic performance .
The concept of mental hygiene in the student
The mental hygiene of study is defined as the set of physical, mental and psychic conditions that facilitate the intellectual task. In all behaviour, successes or failures are in a large percentage the consequence of the state of mind in which the individual finds himself. If the neurophysiological state is positively predisposed to learning, it is more likely that the abilities to achieve confidence in oneself are activated, which are considerably relevant to configure an adequate motivational state in the acquisition of knowledge. This is strongly influenced by:
- The internal representation or concept of oneself (positive or negative), which refers to the tendency to achieve success or avoid failure.
- The physiological conditions and the use made of them, such as the level of muscle tension, tiredness, activation of the body, the level of relaxation and the general functioning of the body.
These two factors can be favored by the person himself by creating positive states or attitudes that activate the maximum psychic capacity and bring the student closer to success. It is possible, if we take into consideration that the internal representation is not a reflection of reality , but rather it becomes a personal interpretation derived from the particular individual beliefs of the subject in such a way that a person becomes what he thinks about himself.
A person cannot be intelligent or effective while thinking otherwise, one might say. A key aspect, therefore, is to work for the change of these internal representations so that they are in line with the idea of personal success or effectiveness. Thus, a fundamental element is to adopt a positive attitude towards one’s intellectual capacities in order to achieve greater confidence in one’s own possibilities.
Physical fitness and academic performance
Study or intellectual work is a psychic activity and is conditioned by physical health and physical well-being. The following are distinguished as intervening and determining factors:
It is recommended to sleep between 7 and 9 hours a day. It is necessary to recover and rest from the daily mental and physical exhaustion . Therefore, more than the quantity, the most relevant thing is the quality of the sleep, which has to be repairing and uninterrupted. In other words, the sensation you have when you wake up should be one of relaxation or freshness. Thus, the following is recommended:
- Do not drag personal problems to the place of rest , trying to solve them before the end of the day or, failing that, leave them for the next day.
- Stimulating foods or drinks, such as chocolate or coffee, etc., should be eliminated or reduced as much as possible, especially at the end of the day.
- It is advisable to have dinner early, around 9pm, and to eat light, easily digestible food.
- Do not take tranquilizers on a regular basis , only in exceptional cases.
- Take a hot bath or walk around for about 15 minutes before going to sleep.
- Perform the daily repertoire of body and oral hygiene behaviors and the use of loose clothing that is appropriate is recommended. It is also relevant to adopt a comfortable sleeping position.
- Set a regular bedtime and try not to do activities that detract from your sleep, such as watching TV.
- Performing regular physical exercise so that the body seeks a natural way to rest from the fatigue produced by this activity.
- Practice some relaxation exercises before going to sleep.
- If in about 30 minutes you do not manage to fall asleep, it is recommended not to worry about it, but to get up and do some activity that will facilitate falling asleep again.
A balanced diet is essential for good intellectual performance. The diet should be varied and rich, including fish, meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, etc. The meals should not be too abundant , it is recommended to have a strong lunch, eat well, and have a smaller snack and dinner. The balance between a healthy diet and regular physical exercise is a key factor.
Constant and continuous practice is recommended, rather than punctual and extreme. The current pace of life affected by hurry, noise, stress, etc. deteriorates the nervous system itself and causes the appearance of negative characteristics such as being more susceptible, a permanent state of alert, being defensive, irritable, etc.
Very useful for students who are prone to worry or anxiety. A dedication of 15 or 20 minutes a day can be very beneficial to increase mental performance. In a comfortable position with the extremities flexed, eyes closed and leaving the muscles relaxed, the mind is left blank. It is essential that during these minutes there is no interruption or external noise. Relaxation repairs the organism from both physical and psychological fatigue , restoring a feeling of general peace and tranquillity.
The psychological well-being of the student
In addition to physical conditions, as discussed above, psychological factors also play an important role in intellectual performance. Aspects such as motivation level, self-esteem, concern , general emotional state, anxiety… greatly influence individual behaviour.
Thus, it can be a very useful exercise to dedicate a few minutes from time to time to converse with oneself by making a small reflection on what one’s psychic state is and to see to what extent it is affecting one’s daily intellectual performance.
According to Tierno (2009) the following phenomena are key factors that mainly influence the level of emotional and cognitive well-being of the student. All of them interact and are bi-directionally related to the physiological state, favouring an adaptive or detrimental predisposition to study:
Level of self-esteem
That is, degree of self-confidence he has to achieve good academic results . It is important to be aware of both one’s own abilities and limitations. A positive attitude consisting of being convinced that with time, effort and illusion success can be achieved, favours the increase of this personality trait.
Having confidence in oneself and getting rid of complexes in the different areas of interaction (family and school) is a main aspect, although recognition by others helps to boost this factor .
Receptive attitude, curiosity and interest in learning
It is essential that the student presents a good orientation to acquire new knowledge that expands his cultural background . Dialogues with teachers and family members can enrich and increase the curiosity and interest in learning.
Understanding and acceptance of others: ability to be more sociable, communicative and generous with others.
By way of conclusion
Although superficially it may seem that the achievement of learning is exclusively defined by the level of intellectual capacity of the student, in this text multiple phenomena have been described, which in reciprocal interaction, are indispensable to explain the reason why a student may be below the expected in his or her academic performance.
It is therefore necessary to carry out an analysis to determine which of these elements have been altered and to propose a series of measures to redirect them appropriately.
- Soria, E. (2015) Effective study techniques. Ed: Mestas Ediciones: Madrid.
- Tierno, B. (2009) Las mejores técnicas de estudio. Ed: Temas de Hoy: Madrid.