By EVA CHRISTODOULOU
There is a plethora of advice out there on how to become smarter – and the most common of all is, of course, to keep reading new information.
Whether online or hard copy, reading is invaluable and helps us accumulate a large pool of knowledge that we can tap into when necessary.
While crucial, there are a few more ways to increase our intelligence every day.
1. SPEND TIME AT “BRAIN GYMS”
Michael Merzenich, professor emeritus at University of California, argues that spending time at Internet “brain gyms” such as AARP and Brain HQ is an activity that he personally indulges in and finds useful.
He argues that spending 20 minutes to 30 minutes a day on such websites doing the exercises available there is extremely efficient in sustaining his neurological health.
The advantage of these online brain gyms is that they allow you to focus on improving specific abilities that you would not otherwise be able to train through every-day activities.
Similarly, activities away from the computer such as solving puzzles, Sudoku or crosswords, can help you maintain a flexible brain that is better able to retain information.
Staying active and keeping your body in good health protects your brain against dementia and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s (unless you are taking up boxing or other sports that increase the risk of head injuries).
Exercise also offers the perfect opportunity to get your mind off daily worries and focus on what you are doing.
By observing what is going on around you while you work out, your emotions, pains and movement of your breath and muscles, you are being more mindful than usual.
This activity forces your brain to work hard in order to remember and analyse all the details, exercising it the whole time.
3. BE OBSERVANT
Even during the day, being mindful can actually help your intelligence. By observing everything that is going on around you – from the smell of a flower to a facial expression that your colleague makes, being mindful can help you understand what lies behind all these apparently mundane observations.
4. LEARN FROM EXPERIENCES
Nothing beats experiential learning, something that can be found in all activities that we engage in. To make this easier to understand, you should see learning as acquiring fundamentally new skills and abilities.
This can be attained by developing challenging new activities that you enjoy undertaking.
For example, on top of your usual job, have hobbies on the side that you are passionate about, and aim to try out new hobbies as often as possible.
Having and maintaining a flower garden, being passionate about cooking, as well as chess, ping pong or any sport, require adaptive and working memory, which grows your intelligence.
5. SPEND TIME WITH PEOPLE
Always remember that social interaction is brain food for everyone. In this age of social networks and smart phones, sadly, people interactions have been diminishing.
Even when families go to restaurants together, they end up spending more than half the time on their smart phones.
Open your house to friends and acquaintances, and be willing to engage in meaningful conversations with those around you.
And of course, in order to maintain this social interaction you have to maintain an interesting, well-rounded you.
Carry on learning what is going on around the world. At the end of the day, you have to make it worthwhile for others to want to spend some time with you.
6. LEARN SOMETHING NEW EVERYDAY
Whether it is learning a new word, understanding the reasons behind a government decision and how it will affect you, or a learning a bit of trivia, make it a point to learn at least one new thing a day.
It’s not enough to read about something. You have to use the information as well. Come up with a personal goal to use the new information you learn with three different people during the course of the day.
That way, the information is more likely to stick in your brain, as repetition is the mother of knowledge. It is not that difficult, in reality, to become smarter by the day. All it takes is a little effort.
Don’t forget that as you get older, even though your brain’s processing speed becomes slower and memory tends to slip up, there are other ways that your mental powers and intelligence grow – but that is different topic which we’ll leave for another time. So go ahead, and claim your rights to a smarter you!
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Eva is the Research & Development leader at Leaderonomics. She believes that everyone can be the leader they would like to be, if they are willing to put in the effort and are curious to learn along the way, as well as with some help from the people around them.