Decompression Session: 5 Ways to Zen Your Study Space

Woman studying on laptop at home.

When you’re a student, your study area is a sacred space. Studying nursing is a challenging pursuit requiring focus and discipline—but there are ways to make your study time more pleasant or and even inviting.

Why not work in a place that makes you feel clear-minded and comfortable? Why not Zen your space? No purchase necessary (okay maybe a few small, inexpensive supplies). Creating an environment where you can settle in, calm down, temporarily block out the world and focus may only take a few adjustments to your current setup.

We put together five simple study space tips to transform the area you might associate with stress into your own private study oasis. And since you’re a student nurse with a scientific sensibility, we explain why each tip is rooted in science and cultural tradition.

1. Feng Shui

Feng shui is a Chinese tradition dating back to ancient times, conceived as the art of creating harmony with your environment. According to feng shui, your desk is a “commanding object”: an object of special importance that represents your career. Therefore, its placement and the arrangement of other furniture and objects around it will have an effect on your career pursuits—which of course includes study—according to feng shui.

You can take your feng shui as far as you want, but at a minimum, position your desk so you can see the door, but at an indirect angle. Feng shui also recommends decluttering and removing any objects that interrupt the flow of your space. Some of the basics of feng shui-ing your space include cleanliness, clear lines of sight, and the integration of decor to highlight the vertical lines in your study area.

2. Aromatherapy

A pleasant scent always adds atmosphere to a room, but there are some that are particularly good for your workspace. May we suggest rosemary? This herb has romance and a literary legacy as a boon to memory—you need only pick up a copy of Hamlet and flip to act IV, scene V to read “there’s rosemary; that’s for remembrance.”

Want some science to back it up? One study confirmed that rosemary boosts memory, as subjects who were exposed to rosemary performed significantly better on a memory test against subjects exposed to lavender.

There are other aromas that can calm or invigorate you as you learn, and even enhance your productivity. Citrus scents can stimulate alertness, cinnamon has been linked to improved memory, and peppermint has been proven to lengthen attention span in medical students. Luckily, it’s easy to find candles and essential oils in almost any scent; or you can fill a bowl with cut lemons, fresh rosemary, cinnamon sticks, or just chew some peppermint gum.

3. Ambient Music

Music can be a powerful mood enhancer, and even a great motivator. Music at a gamma frequency (40 Hz) in particular can help you concentrate. The specific music that activates you is very much according to taste, but science shows instrumental music works best for study, because you won’t be distracted by lyrics.

It’s up to you what type of instrumental soundtrack you want for your study time. Classical music is an obvious choice, but if you’re not feeling orchestral, you can find contemporary ambient music to put on a playlist. Check out Brian Eno’s “Music for Films.”

If you find even ambient or classical music distracting, consider investing in a sound machine and simply play white noise, which has been studied and determined to help with focus.

4. Get a Plant!

A houseplant isn’t just a lively addition to any space—it’s a friend to your productivity. First of all, the color green, because of its low wavelength, promotes a calm and focused mind, proven to enhance focus and efficiency.

In addition to being (typically) green, houseplants may improve both productivity and happiness. One study by Washington University demonstrated a 12% increase in response time in subjects working near houseplants. And according to the biophilia hypothesis, supported by numerous studies, humans experience a connection with houseplants that creates positive emotions.

If you want to combine efforts, see tip number two and consider a rosemary or peppermint plant. One popular option is a “money tree” that is meant to bring you good fortune. Don’t forget to apply water and sunlight to keep your plant as happy as it makes you.

5. Post Your Mantra

Even if you’re not a meditator, pick a mantra. Or call it a motto. Or maxim. Or battle cry.

Whatever you choose to call it, they should be your words to live by. Mantras have a powerful and ancient history, derived from the perceived power of the primordial intonation “Om.” But feel free to take a modern approach. Find something self-affirming and inspiring—something that when you think or say it to yourself, it moves you. Then write it down and give it a place of honor in your study space. Have it engraved on a placard or just put it up on a Post-It.

However you choose to display it, it will personalize your space and literally imprint it with the energy you seek. Then anytime you feel defeated, unmotivated, or even just want to center yourself, it’s there to tell you what you need to hear.

That’s it! Just five easy and cheap tips to Zen your study area. Follow these steps to make your desk not just your workspace, but your happy place.

For another post on how to keep your study space and study habits organized for maximum productivity, check out our Study Buddy post on “5 Lessons for Good Study ‘Hygiene’”.

WCU provides career guidance and assistance but cannot guarantee employment. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or position of the school or of any instructor or student.