Jessica McDonald is a doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology Program at NSU. She works as an academic success coach at the Tutoring and Testing Center.
Living in South Florida has a ton of perks, the most notable of which is the constant stream of sunshine. The beach weather we’ve come to expect year-round is not only awesome for our tans, but weirdly, it’s extremely helpful for our studying.
According to researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Harvard Medical School, and the Psychiatric University Clinic in Basel, Switzerland, exposure to differing levels of light changes your body’s cortisol levels. Cortisol is the hormone responsible for stress and metabolic regulation, which impact your energy levels.
Under artificial or dim lighting, our cortisol levels decrease, which means we are more susceptible to feeling stressed and having lower-than-normal energy levels. Moreover, scientist and researcher Mirjam Muench found that individuals who are exposed more frequently to daylight are more alert in the early evening than those who were more frequently exposed to artificial light. So basically, natural sunlight makes us feel less stressed and more awake, which is exactly what we need when we’re studying — especially for those final exams that are coming up.
Exposure to light isn’t the only thing that changes how we study. Temperature is a huge factor in our ability to be productive. One study from Cornell University specifically indicated that, when people are in cooler environments, we are more likely to make mistakes than when people are in areas at the “optimal” temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit. This isn’t necessarily because you may be uncomfortable in the warmth, but mainly because we are more easily distracted when the temperature is low.
So, if you want to do well on finals, you should take advantage of your geographical location in ways which are backed by science such as with light sources and temperatures. Go outside and be in the sun because it can help to make you calmer — ergo happier — as well as more energized and more capable of focusing on what is important.