Light Up That Brain: 4 Tips to Balance School with Life

By Carleton University Modified on March 11, 2019

Today’s lesson: Want better ideas? Make sure you have fun and laughter in your life.


I saw you. In the library, head slumped over your books. Fast asleep.

Meanwhile, three floors down, a group of students gathered around Murphy, a mountain dog mix, who visits the university regularly with his owner. Murphy’s jobis to give students a moment of relief, a laugh, and a smile.

Do you know that when you laugh, your higher-function frontal lobe neocortex thinking kicks in? It’s the same part of your brain that lights up when you’re being creative and synthesizing ideas.

The mind and the brain are still vastly uncharted territory, but research suggests that highly creative people can move easily between a state of daydreaming and the brain’s executive function (analyzing whether an idea is feasible).

Make time for fun: This looks different for everyone. Maybe it’s going to a movie, dancing, going for a swim or a skate. Maybe you need to daydream, and make room for thoughts to come to mind.

Smile: Research shows that smiling (even when you fake it), helps lift your mood, reduce stress, and boost your immune system. Smiling is also contagious. :)

Get involved: Humans are intensely social creatures. Sharing a meal with friends can be deeply satisfying. Volunteering is also a good way to meet new people, and to devote your time to something that’s meaningful to you. Or you can cheer on your sports team (#GoRavens)!

Plan ahead and be flexible: Having fun is usually spontaneous, but it can help to have a schedule so you get all your work done with time leftover. Exam time might not be the best time to socialize every day of the week, but it’s a great time to take a much needed break for half an hour of meditation, or take a walk outside in nature.

Or go visit Murphy.