Woman daydreaming in forest

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Learn Better After a Brain Break
While covering health and wellness for magazines and newspapers, Jessica Cassity compiled a treasure trove of research-backed advice on how to live a happier, healthier, more fulfilling and less stressful life. From her new book, Better Each Day (Chronicle Books), here are ten small changes you can make to start living better now.

If a thought-provoking movie, lecture, or book leaves your brain ready for a rest, go ahead and tune out for a little bit. Researchers have found that taking a mental break—like zoning out while you wash the dishes, or simply switching your thoughts to an easier topic—can actually help you retain any information you just learned. In a study recently conducted at New York University, people were asked to memorize pairs of images. Scientists measured brain activity while subjects viewed images and committed them to memory, and also a few minutes later, during a wakeful rest period. They found that absorbing information activated a certain spot in the brain, and in some cases, the brain became even more active during the rest period, which resulted in higher rates of retention. Daydreaming isn't a guaranteed path to better memory, but it's worth a try. In the middle of an intense study session, take a short break, then revisit the work and see how well you remember.