Everyone craves intelligence. Like anything of perceived value, we want it. Of all our personality traits, intelligence is the most admired and useful tool available. Most of us want to know how to become smarter.
Society celebrates smart people, and rightly so: Our survival depends on good decisions. Moments of brilliance change the course of history. Smart people who open the door to new understandings receive the greatest praise imaginable. We all want to stand up and say, “I have the answer.”
Beyond dreams of elevating humanity to a golden age – and getting all the credit – intelligence just makes life easier. Things seem to come easier to smart people. Intelligence lets you solve problems faster, make more money, and work less.
How can you become more intelligent? First, forget about people just being born smart. Science has shown that neuroplasticity exists: You can grow brain cells and get smarter. It’s just a matter of how.
These top 10 easy daily habits will make you smarter and give you the intelligence you deserve. Here’s how to get smarter:
1. Do Different Things That Make You Smarter
The point of this list involves diversifying your day. Spend time on a variety of tasks. Spend 30 minutes on one task and move on to another. You not only stave off boredom, you also enable a critical resting period for your brain to recover.
Your brain loves breaks. The main way to increase your intelligence involves flexing different areas of your brain. At a gym, you shift to different machines to give your body a full workout. Overworking muscle groups only leaves you strained and tired. Muscles increase their mass while in rest, and your brain works the same way.
While seemingly at rest, you brain continues to solve problems. This explains the “eureka!” moment, which blindsides you out of the blue. One study proves that by taking a break, your likelihood of reaching a breakthrough drastically improves. This is why it’s important to relax or change what you’re doing. Don’t overwhelm yourself, and keep your brain in mind.
2. Manage Your Time Wisely
In the online age, it’s easy to get distracted. You just wanted to check your email and suddenly you’re four pages deep on a “Breaking Bad” forum – then you re-watch the final season. Time well spent.
Don’t let your online wanderings get the better of you. Make a list of your priorities. Tackle them in order of importance. Put time into your projects but when you hit a brick wall, don’t get out the hammer. Instead, relax and take a break.
Devote time to disconnect from work. With your phone locked to your hip around the clock, your co-workers and boss will try to contact you. Stand your ground and turn off your phone during evenings and weekends.
If you get any backlash, make the same argument as Volkswagen. The German automotive giant adopted a firm policy of never contacting off-work employees. The rationale cites the importance of separating work and home life – it actually increases worker productivity and morale.
Turn off your phone, don’t get lost online, make a list and take breaks. You’ll manage your time better and become more intelligent much faster.
3. Read a Little Every Day
Does reading make you smarter? Yes, regardless of content, reading increases your intelligence. A paper by Anne E. Cunningham claims that children who read turn into smart adults. Interestingly, Cunningham suggests that the actual reading material plays little role in the result. Instead, the act of reading produces increased intelligence.
Reading creates an atmosphere for reflection and analytical thought. You pause and consider what you read. The practice of reading demands attention. Simply by concentrating, you stimulate your mind and increase your brainpower.
Of course, as an adult, you benefit more by absorbing interesting or challenging material. Pushing yourself to digest harder texts puts a healthy strain on your mind. Books covering topical or socially relevant subjects force you to think critically.
Meanwhile, fiction increases your capacity for understanding the human condition and boosts your emotional intelligence. Reading also jam-packs your brain with tons of knowledge and vocabulary.
Try to pick up a good book and read on a daily basis. It’s fun, relaxing, informative, and exercises your brain.
4. Review Learned Information
Once you learn a piece of information, review it. You can’t learn if you don’t remember. Memory functions through repetition. When you repeat a fact, you set the wheels of memory in motion again.
The process of cumulatively reviewing information helps your knowledge to stick. Experiences linger on the outer cortex of the brain before transforming into memories housed in the hippocampus.
Unfortunately, they often dislodge in the hodge-podge of information coming through. Like dropping your keys in a crowded nightclub, memories disappear in the chaos of thought.
Everybody forgets. Anticipate this inevitability by planning to review anything you want to remember. Repetitive learning increases the retention of knowledge.
5. Study a Second Language
Easier said than done, but learning a language represents one of the top things that make you smarter. Studying a language proves challenging for most people. It takes years of work to gain fluency in a foreign tongue. Lucky for you, mastering a language isn’t the point. Like a kung-fu student carrying buckets of water up a steep staircase, you gain strength through the task.
Language acquisition launches your brain into a full workout. When you read, hear and converse in a language, your senses hurl into hyperdrive. This multisensory explosion triggers processes which flex crucial areas of your brain. The more your brain struggles to deal with and respond to information, the stronger it becomes.
The chain of events works like this:
- When speech enters your ears, it gets converted into auditory information using your auditory cortex.
- The data shoots off to Wernicke’s area, which extracts words and phrases.
- Next, Broca’s area stimulates your motor planning, getting you ready to respond.
- Your prepared utterance then passes into the Motor cortex, which operates your mouth.
Not only does speech supercharge these vital regions of your brain, language learning also utilizes analytical reasoning and memory. All these factors may contribute to why bilingual speakers master multi-tasking better than monolingual people.
Try to devote 30 minutes each day to a new language. Find a strategy you like.
As for language material, spend money wisely. Expensive software promising easy solutions will drain your wallet and leave you frustrated. Buy a cheap self-instructional guide and work through the exercises. Find a friend willing to practice dialogue with you and come to the meeting prepared.
If you find yourself buckling under the intellectual demands – good. This puts pressure on your mind to improve. Keep doing your minimum 30 minutes a day and feel your intellect grow.
6. Play Brain Games
They might not beat your game console, but brain games claim to sharpen your cognitive ability. Many apps promise to boost your IQ through fun and simple games. These companies suggest that by playing games developed by neuroscientists, you’ll reap the benefits of their research.
People like brain games. Whether they work or not, these programs get a lot of attention. The website Lumosity offers a series of brain games used by 50 million brain trainers. Surely they can’t all be wasting their time.
Brain games market themselves as a way to increase fluid intelligence. This applies to problem-solving skills extended from the game to real-life situations, which represents the crux of the games. Of course, you’ll get better at the games if you keep playing them, but your developed talents must widen to include other areas.
One study conducted in 2008 proved that a game called Duel N-Back demonstrated that fluid intelligence developed in participants. Duel N-Back receives great praise from its users. Essentially, it functions as a memory retention game.
Unfortunately, scientists cannot replicate the results of the 2008 test. This has cast doubt on the experiment controls used in the original study. Despite the skepticism, research on the advantages of brain games remains an exciting field for neuroscience.
If you like brain games, play them! Keep an open mind – they might just make you smarter.
7. Get Regular Exercise
Guys grunting at the gym don’t usually look like Einstein, but daily exercise actually makes you smarter. Including 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise in your daily routine will enhance your mental clarity and intelligence.
An old Roman saying goes “healthy mind, healthy body.” This aphorism surprisingly has scientific backing. Research from Concordia University claims that getting more blood and oxygen to your brain does wonders for cognitive health. Not only does the biological aspect play a role, but multitasking while exercising also stimulates multiple areas of the brain.
Put on a mind-bending science podcast and start working that elliptical. Feel free to grunt.
8. Learn to Play a Musical Instrument
Picking up an instrument will not only impress your friends, it will make you smarter. When you play an instrument, you employ a vast area of your brain at once.
Consider the senses. You use your visual, auditory, and physical capacities all while playing an instrument. Your experience of playing music uses tons of cognitive processes simultaneously, for instance:
- analytic capacities to read the music
- visual cues from watching your hands
- maintaining rhythm and tone
- awareness of physical space
- utilizing your motor cortex
- building muscle memory
- engaging in social cues of performance
Scientists frequently employ magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology to study the brain during tests. When participants in one study played an instrument, many different parts of the brain lit up on the MRI scan.
Getting into the habit of practicing an instrument daily, even for a short period, will improve your brain function and intelligence.
9. Food for Thought: Eat Smart
You need to eat, so why not power your intelligence with brain-booster super foods? Certain foods contain qualities proven to enhance brain power. No need to order any fad food online – the best foods line the shelves of your local grocery store.
The best foods for brain function all contain high levels of fat. Historically, fat has a bad reputation. People generally believe that eating fat makes you fat. Some fats do affect your body negatively, but not all.
The foods to avoid contain trans fats. Often labeled on packages as partially hydrogenated oil, trans fat contributes to high cholesterol, inflammation, diabetes, stroke, and other health problems. Instead of trans-fat rich items like potato chips, choose a food high in monounsaturated fats, like fish or nuts. Your brain will thank you.
After all, the human brain consists of 60 percent fat. Don’t feel embarrassed about your chubby brain. The famous TV scientist Bill Nye suggested in the 1990s that the next time someone calls you a fathead, you should take it as a compliment.
The brain needs fat to run properly. Despite its small size, about 2 percent of our body weight, the brain sucks up 20 percent of our energy. Don’t starve this fuel hog.
To keep your mind in peak condition, pack your fridge with these supercharged, brain accelerating wonder foods:
- Avocados. Bursting with premium fats, avocados constitute a high-octane brain snack. Avocados offer fats in high dosage – 77 percent of their calories come from fats. Avocados provide an excellent source of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid also found in olive oil.
- Salmon. This delicious fish offers a different type of brain-loving fat – omega-3 fatty acid. This vital fat provides the physical architecture of 66 percent of your brain. Omega-3 provides the main structural component of your brain’s neuron cells’ membranes. It facilitates the rapid-fire neural transmission that occurs between neurons creating thoughts. Moreover, our bodies don’t manufacture omega-3, so you need to consume it. Get some salmon on your plate, and let omega-3 lubricate your thoughts.
- Nuts. A tasty snack loaded with brainy goodness, seeds and nuts offer different types of valuable assets. With even more omega-3 than salmon, flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, and walnuts, they pack a punch.
Almonds and hazelnuts are vitamin E champions. Essential for cognitive function, vitamin E improves memory and verbal functions. Pack some nuts in your granola bar, salad, or trail mix: They contain tons of protein, which is also valuable for brain health and stamina throughout the day.
Other foods like olive oil, eggs, small amounts of red wine, dark chocolate, blueberries, and coffee also assist brain activity.
For now, your best starting point involves the heavyweights: avocados, salmon, and nuts. Incorporate these foods into your daily diet and feel your intelligence sharpen.
Establishing a short, daily meditation practice can beef up your concentration, alertness, creativity, and intelligence. Numerous studies show a direct link between meditation and increased brain activity. Many prominent university researchers claim meditation benefits the brain:
- UCLA produced a study correlating long-term meditation with better preserved grey matter, which resulted in healthier brains for older participants.
- Yale University demonstrated that meditation reduces daydreaming.
- Johns Hopkins found that meditation curbs depression, pain, and anxiety.
- Harvard research linked meditation to brain growth in the hippocampus and increased memory and learning.
The lengthy investigation into mediation’s effect on the brain has overwhelmingly yielded positive results. Here’s how to do it:
- Find a room with little noise or distractions.
- Sit comfortably with your posture erect. A straight-backed chair works fine. No need to sit like a cross-legged Buddha.
- Set a timer on your phone. Any period of time will do.
- Relax your gaze. Eyes open or closed – it’s your choice.
- Breathe normally, but focus on your breathing.
- Now you’re ready.
At this point, several options present themselves. Most people think meditation involves clearing your mind, but that’s not always the case. For beginners, total absence of thought won’t come naturally. Feel free to try, but don’t get disappointed when a loud, obnoxious thought comes careening into your mind – it’s going to happen.
The most effective method of mediation for beginners involves a mantra. Ideally, a mantra is a nonsense word or phrase which you repeat, silently, to yourself. The mantra can sound like anything. You can make it up, or use a classic mantra like “aum shanti.” The power involves the phrase’s meaninglessness – one less thing to distract you from the words. If an annoying thought sneaks into your mantra, don’t abandon the chant. Instead, acknowledge the thought, guide it away, and return to focusing on the mantra.
Of course, results may vary. Try different techniques and methods of concentration. See what works for you. As proven by countless research, meditation will improve your intelligence, memory and brain function. Start with five minutes of mantra meditation a day and feel the difference.
Get Going and Get Smarter
Incorporate these 10 daily habits into your lifestyle and you will notice a change. Intelligence represents a gradual change. Your brain takes time to adapt, but when it does, you’ll have the skills to live a happier, more intelligent life.