Arts and Entertainment

Snacks and Songs: Secrets to Success

If you’re looking to perfect your studying routine, try these nutritious foods and stimulating music genres to give your brain the boost it needs.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Cover Image
By Joanna Meng

Stuyvesant students are all too familiar with the late night cram session: a single lamp illuminating papers scattered haphazardly across the desk, interspersed with empty coffee mugs and frantically written Post-It note reminders. Despite the frequent tests, quizzes, and projects in high school, it feels hard to settle into a comfortable studying routine that balances effectiveness and efficiency. Eating nutritious snacks and listening to stimulating music can alter both your outlook and atmosphere, which improves your studying experience and gives your brain the energy boost it needs.

While preparing for a major exam, you might find yourself wandering into the kitchen, ravenously staring into the refrigerator as if it were a mystifying abyss. Improving your studying habits starts with your snacking habits. You might be rolling your eyes, but this doesn’t necessarily mean eating healthier. Focus on brain foods, which contain nutrients that improve brain function. For instance, dark chocolate is a brain food that is proven to limit mental fatigue and improve memory and mood. Dark chocolate-covered walnuts are a great study snack option because they combine the undeniable deliciousness of chocolate with the health benefits of vitamin-rich nuts.

Another brain food to try is avocado toast with red peppers and a sunny-side-up egg. The salty avocado paired with the crunchy bell peppers and gooey egg gives every bite texture and contrast. These ingredients contain antioxidants and benefit brain health by improving accuracy in mental tasks. A fruit salad with berries and citrus fruit may also give you the extra boost of energy that you need to conquer trigonometry. The tart berries are complemented by tangy orange and grapefruit slices, creating a rainbow of fresh ingredients that instantly transport you to summertime. Berries have antioxidants that strengthen communication between neurons, and citrus fruits contain compounds that improve learning and memory.

It might be tempting to make yourself a massive cup of coffee when your eyelids start to feel like elephants are dancing on them, but try green tea instead. It has the caffeine that you crave, but unlike coffee, drinking green tea reduces anxiety. The amino acids in green tea balance out the negative side effects of caffeine, relaxing you enough to circumvent stress-induced test jitters.

Music is the second ingredient in spicing up a studying slog. While some may deem music a distraction, research shows that it can augment your studying by boosting your motivation, memorization, and focus. The key to a successful playlist is finding the right music for you. It’s best to stick to instrumental music during crunch time because it drowns out the cacophonous symphony of New York City noisiness while still blending into the background. Stay away from music with vocals when reading or writing so that your brain doesn’t have to differentiate between the words on your page and the lyrics. This doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to spend the late nights leading up to your physics final jamming out to Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” though. As an alternative, try electronic beats, jazz, instrumental hip-hop, or even nature sounds. Electronic music, like Avicii’s “Levels (Instrumental Radio Edit)” (2011), possesses an uplifting bounciness, so it can serve as the perfect motivator. If jazz is more your speed, turn on some Miles Davis and let the improvisational flow of the trumpet cast its spell. Instrumental hip-hop, exemplified by artists like PØPE, provides chill rhythms that will keep you grounded when things start to get stressful. For nature sounds, Imaginary Landscapes can transport you anywhere from Amarillo Beach to a moonlit thunderstorm. Interestingly, video game soundtracks are also particularly beneficial during studying. This is because they are designed to support the player without interfering with their focus.

If instrumental music makes you feel like you’re in a low-budget period drama, try listening to acoustic renditions of the Top 40. They are a good choice because their familiarity makes your brain automatically register them as background noise, and they will serve to keep you focused and aware. Many artists have “stripped” versions of their most popular songs. For example, Marshmello and Halsey’s “Be Kind (stripped)” (2020) gives the hit song a new dimension, creating intimacy through hushed harmonies and reverbed guitar strumming. Other noteworthy options include Julia Michaels’s “Issues (Acoustic)” (2017), James Arthur’s “Say You Won’t Let Go” (2016), and Adele’s “Easy On Me” (2021). The trick is to stay away from music that you feel strongly about. Obviously, playing music that you hate while studying is a bad idea, but playing music that you love can be equally distracting. It’s important to find a happy medium: songs that make you feel cheerful and relaxed, yet can still be tuned out when necessary.

It might take some experimentation to find the perfect snack and song combination to use when studying for your next test, but it’ll be worth it when you walk into the classroom on test day feeling as cool as a cucumber. If that’s not enough of an incentive, remember that you officially have permission to gorge yourself on dark chocolate for the sake of your brain health.