15 Habits That Will Make You Smarter

15 Habits That Will Make You Smarter

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That was pretty smart of you to click this article. See, it’s working! Here are 15 other ways to boost your brainpower each day…

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1. Brainstorm 10 Ideas Every Day

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This one’s fun! (And it could land you a patent and a billion dollars. But I digress…) Thinking creatively, you activate the part of your brain that works when you are not concentrating, similar to daydreaming. It also causes collaboration with the area of your brain that serves as governor. (Not governor, an elected U.S. official. Governor as in a device you put on a car to limit its speed.) In the book, Make Your Brain Smarter: Increase Your Brain’s Creativity, Energy, and Focus, the authors say that causing two regions to work together strengthens the brain, and activating a specific region demands greater blood flow to that area. This improves the health of your thinking machine. Dedicate a notebook and start jotting down ideas. If you need a prompt, start each day with the words, “What if…” (If one of your ideas earns you a billion bucks, I want a cut.)

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2. Engage In Integrated Reasoning

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In the 287 page book, Make Your Brain Smarter, mentioned already, the authors tout integrated reasoning as your brain’s “platinum cognitive asset.” When you take your knowledge and experiences from the past and synthesize them to new contexts, you’re using integrated reasoning. Doing this daily can “revolutionize your brain health habits and your mental intellect” regardless of age the authors say. Try this: In one of your next emails, express ingenious thinking and take time to include information, past experiences, or anecdotes to further your message. Another way to implement this strategy is if you are about to ask for a raise or a promotion, instead of simply highlighting your accomplishments, incorporate them into a vision statement for yourself in your current job and present this to your boss.

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3. Read More

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This habit can keep you updated on current events, new trends, upcoming technology, world affairs, cultures, and well, pretty much everything. Read varied materials for breadth: newspapers, magazines, fiction and nonfiction books, industry- or content-specific websites, blogs, reports, poems, short stories, you name it. Reading the newspaper—even just the headlines—will keep you up to speed on world affairs as well as important local news. And fiction? Research shows that reading a novel can put you in another person’s shoes and flex your imagination in a way that is similar to muscle memory in sports. Author, Christopher Paul Curtis, began his writing career by reading, reading, reading. This led to him picking up a pen and write his first children’s book. It won two awards.

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4. Sleep More

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While you sleep, your brain goes through a self-cleaning cycle. It flushes out toxic proteins made during the day and sends them to the liver to be excreted. This process makes you smarter, perkier, and healthier when you wake up. Now you know why you’re foggy and cranky when you don’t get enough shut eye! Even animals that do not get enough sleep have poorer concentration, coordination, and memory. They’re even moody! Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, the world’s largest software company, gets seven hours of sleep a night. He says he can’t be creative with anything fewer. Better to be a productive billionaire than a poor work-a-holic who talks about not getting enough sleep.

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5. Watch Educational Videos

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It’s easy to spend an hour, or three, in front of the TV and not walk away any smarter. However, spend 15 minutes on the right website and you might walk away a different person. You can watch engaging, educational, even mind-blowing videos or talks that will take your knowledge to another level. Khan Academy has tutorials on everything from algebra to astronomy. TED.com offers educational and inspiring talks that will introduce you to people to whom you would not normally have access. These folks, leaders in their fields, stand on a red dot and share their brains with you. There’s also the Smarter Every Day Youtube channel. Fun info that will keep you “glued” to the monitor…and getting smarter.

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6. Play Intelligent Games

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Do you play Checkers? Or Chess? One game puts crowns on your head but the other will give you a better head. Games that cause you to plan several steps in advance or to think like your opponent will continue to sharpen your thinking tool. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, Risk, and even strategic video games like StarCraft bolster the brain. (Don’t worry. We won’t tell your kids.) A study using 72 participants showed that playing StarCraft improved participants’ ability to quickly adapt, switch tasks, and think about multiple ideas at once. Another study found certain games improved real-world thinking and performance using the cognitive abilities the game required. For instance, Tetris or Match 3 Objects strengthened spatial memory.

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7. Learn From Mistakes

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If you are like the college students and doctors who participated in a research study, you either learn from your mistakes or you deny them. The experiment caused each group to make a mistake. When alerted, some of the participants took note of the error and saw it as an opportunity to learn. They were very careful to avoid blundering the second time around. The other group did not respond this way. They interpreted the feedback about their mistake as a threat and ignored it, opting to stand by their wrong decisions. (Some of these people are doctors!) In an interview in 2008, Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, credited mistakes with helping the company achieve greater heights. Mistakes are just a rung on the ladder helping you to climb higher…as long as you learn from them.

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8. Listen More; Say Less

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Don’t feel you have to comment on everything or inject your ideas into all conversations. Just listening can make you not only appear smart to others, but you’ll also learn more by keeping your ears open and your mouth shut. (Of course, asking clarifying questions not included.) Plus, silence helps you avoid the risk of saying the wrong thing. There is a saying: A smart man once said—nothing. Keep your mouth closed while you listen and strive to learn and to understand.

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9. Take Quiet Time

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“Going for a walk, boss!” Several studies prove that quiet time is good for the brain. One showed that silent pauses in slow-tempoed music were more beneficial than the calming music itself. Another study found that young adults whose homes had a view of nature were less likely to be aggressive and scored higher in attentional capacity than subjects who lived in the inner city.  These studies, among others, support Stephen Kaplan’s Attention Restoration Theory that states the brain can restore itself more effectively in natural environments due to their lower levels of sensory input than a city environment.

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10. Take An Online Course

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Duh! Of course this will make you smarterer. With online courses, you don’t even have to travel to college to get an advanced education. You can choose from various leading universities and listen (or watch) the classes, often according to your schedule. You can finish a semester’s worth of courses in days or weeks if you prefer. For instance, coursera.org offers Java Programming & Software Engineering from Duke University, Digital Marketing from The University of Illinois, and Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity from Stanford University to name only a few of their myriad courses. If you want the certificate to prove you’re smarter, the courses come with a price tag; otherwise, you can watch the pre-recorded videos, take the quizzes and do the projects for free. There are some exceptions.

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11. Exercise

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Turns out exercising is good for your brain. Working out encourages neurogenesis, the birth of nerve cells in the brain, and it fosters neuroplasticity–building connections between neurons. Research suggests that the parts of the brain that control thinking and memory are greater in volume in people who exercise versus those who don’t, especially if the exercise is moderately intensive and conducted regularly for six months or a year. Is that incentive to join a gym? If your schedule is too tight for an actual routine, park your car farther from your destination and walk, or get off the bus or train a stop early. Opt for steps over the elevator. Or better yet, take the whole family for a brisk, 30 minute daily walk. Running, bicycling, swimming or just plain aerobics are also good.

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12. Mind Your Menu

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Choosing the right foods can give your thinking power a boost. Avocados are terrific with their monosaturated fats. The natural nitrates in beets improve blood flow to the brain, helping with mental performance. Blueberries, a.k.a. brain berries, are super-high in antioxidants and gallic acid which makes them especially good at protecting your brain from degeneration and stress. Broccoli has the macronutrient choline that helps with development. Wild salmon pack omega-3 essential fatty acids and nuts, especially walnuts (they even look like a brain) and seeds keep your brain healthy as you age. Celery, coconut oil and even dark chocolate all make the list, possessing properties that every brain needs. And bellies love!

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13. Share!

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When you share with others what you learned, it causes you to think deeper about the subject matter. Sharing can lead to having to explain or debate, and these processes help force you to understand the information better. A 2010 study demonstrated that explaining led to more thorough understanding than describing a topic. Sharing also demands that you consider the information from different perspectives and use varied terminology to be able to communicate it effectively to your audience.

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14. Hang Out With People Smarter Than You

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Author and professor, Enrico Moretti, says, “Being around smart people makes us smarter and more innovative.” Not to sound crass, but hanging out with people who speak only sports, soap operas, and gossip or locker room topics, as exciting as these subjects may be, will train your brain to be adept in these areas. However, if you are among folk who challenge your thinking, have big ideas, and ask deep questions, you’ll be using your noggin in a whole different way…a way that’s going to flex its muscle, so to speak, and make it stronger. There is even research supporting this, showing that intelligence is not fixed but can be boosted throughout adulthood by external factors, namely our interactions with other people.

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15. Try Lateral Thinking Puzzles

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Coined by Edward de Bono in 1967, lateral thinking puzzles involve stories that leave a question to be answered or a mystery to be solved. Within the story is a piece of misleading information that results in an intended misunderstanding of the facts. To overcome this, and to solve the puzzle, you must use creativity, reasoning, and thoughtful questions to identify and correct the detail that put your brain on the wrong track. These problems teach you to not take anything for granted, and this is a trait that will help you tackle problems in real life. Plus, the creativity involved with these riddles will cause you to think outside the lines of what is expected to come up with unexpected solutions. In short, when you develop skills to answer these puzzles, you can become a valuable problem solver in your personal life and in the workplace. Especially if you become a detective.

[Featured Image Credit: www.penetric.com]

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