Picking The Panther’s Brain | Why everyone should learn about psychology

Picking The Panther’s Brain is a biweekly psychology blog by Dalia Maeroff.

By Dalia Maeroff, Contributing Editor

Everybody should learn about psychology. I know, I know, I sound like the first lecture of that introduction to psychology course everyone took their first year as a gen-ed. Even though I believed what was said in that lecture, I didn’t realize the weight of what I heard until now, with nearly all of my major requirements finished. 

The subject of psychology is useful for all the obvious reasons that they tell you in Psych 110 — like the incredibly bland statement “it helps you understand people better.” But those professors never tell you just how much. The benefits of understanding psychology are a well-kept secret that professors just know they can’t explain in one semester — and there’s much more to them than just the five items in this blog. 

  1. Your relationships improve dramatically

This was the first thing I noticed. Not only am I able to help my friends in ways I never could have imagined — from knowing how to make them feel better when they go through breakups to calming them down when they’re panicking over their failing chemistry grades — but now I can also set boundaries with ease. Though boundaries were something I struggled with before, I am now as familiar with the habits of healthy relationships as I am with the back of my hand. Relationships with friends, family and even romantic partners seemed to blossom once I started learning how to navigate tough conversations and how to resolve conflict in healthy ways.

  1. You start to get better at talking to people

Talking always came easy to me. After all, I have plenty to say. But in college, saying the right thing really matters when it comes to networking, emailing professors and even just talking to peers. Suddenly, after taking enough psych classes, knowing what to say and how to properly ask for what you need — whether that’s an extension on an assignment or just extra resources to study in class — becomes easier. 

  1. Studying becomes easier

This was by far the best benefit of studying psychology. Cognitive psychology especially helped me study effectively for the first time in my life. Everything from knowing how to quiz myself properly to practicing more effective note taking helped me deepen my understanding of my class material. For some people, writing notes by hand and then rewriting them may do the trick. For others, watching videos rather than reading a textbook may help. 

  1. Your overall health improves

Once you learn all the ways that the human brain functions best, it’s hard to go back. Suddenly, not getting eight hours of sleep is a death sentence to your memory and overall cognitive function. Your eating habits improve — you know that the healthier you eat, the better your brain works on everything from memory recall to mood. You start intentionally taking the stairs, going on long walks and making a point of working exercise into your daily routine, because physical activity improves mood and overall cognitive function. I started doing all of these things because they were good for my brain, but they also greatly improve overall health. 

  1. You start to catch yourself in your own mistakes

Whether you’re struggling with mental illness, a bad day or both, you start to catch your mistakes in how you view yourself and how you interact with other people. When you snap at someone due to stress, it’s much easier to see once you’ve learned a bit about your own stress responses. Once you’ve learned the ins and outs of manipulation, you realize that most people don’t even know they’re doing it and that you do it more often than you think. When you’re in a downward spiral, the steps to get out of it are already fresh in your mind.  

This is only scraping the surface of the usefulness of knowing how the brain works. You can navigate everything from dealing with grief, to breakups, to failing a class, to an argument with a loved one. You begin to know yourself better and interact with the world and the people in it more productively. 

Dalia Maeroff writes primarily about issues of psychology, education, culture and environmentalism. Write to her at [email protected].

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