If you’re under the impression there aren’t many things that make you smarter, think again!
Scientists once thought that intelligence was genetically determined and that you couldn’t do anything to improve on what you were born with. Neuroscientists have now found that this is false.
Now, there’s evidence that certain things and activities can make you smarter.
1. Meditation and mindfulness
One of the most influential thinkers of our time, Neuroscientist Sam Harris, stands by meditation as an important method of self-mastery. He’s devoted a lot of his adult life to the practice, and persistently recommends it to his readers and listeners. He claims it not only can relieve pain and reduce anxiety and depression, but also improves cognitive function and even generates new brain cells.
Research backs up his claims, with one study showing that an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programme using meditation produced increases in grey matter in areas of the brain related to learning and memory among others.
This sounds obvious, but reading is one of the things that makes you smarter. Studies have shown that reading has positive effects on vocabulary, knowledge acquisition, and abstract reasoning skills (as if we needed a study to tell us that).
Being an avid reader and sometimes devouring many books within the space of just a couple of weeks, I’d like to offer some advice myself. I’ve realized that over-reading and reading a wide variety of things over a short space of time can end up being a waste of time.
I’m sure it hasn’t done my vocabulary any harm. But despite putting in the hours to read some great literature, when I’ve been quizzed on it afterwards in conversation, I’ve found that I wasn’t really able to remember much.
Having embarrassed myself a couple of times, I’ve disciplined myself to read selectively and carefully, making sure I know what I’ve read and can talk about it afterwards. There’s no point in reading if you can’t gain any applicable knowledge from it.
I’ve also found that people who read too much can have some pretty confused views about things. Choose quality reading and read it slowly and carefully.
3. Using the 5 primary principles for increasing fluid intelligence
Andrea Kuzweski, behavioral therapist and consultant on children with Autism-spectrum disorders created a five-principle guide for increasing intelligence that’s been proven to work in a clinical environment.
The five principles are as follows:
- Seek Novelty – Always try to learn new things, become a polymath; don’t focus only on one subject.
- Challenge Yourself – Work at the very limits of your abilities.
- Think Creatively – Make connections of your own between ideas, and come up with new, original ideas about the topics you study.
- Do Things the Hard Way – Avoid using technological shortcuts to do tasks that you could do in your head or on paper.
- Network – Communicate and make friends with other people who are generating ideas.
4. Using dietary supplements
Certain dietary supplements count among the things that make you smarter:
- Caffeine + L-theanine help improve cognitive functioning on particular tasks.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids improve your memory.
- Ginkgo Biloba helps improve your ability to focus and pay attention.
- Creatine improves brain functioning.
5. Fasting or restricting food intake
Fasting is a practice that’s been part of religious lifestyles for centuries. It entails depriving your body of food for a certain period of time. You wouldn’t think that depriving your body of nutrients, even temporarily, could have a positive effect on brain function. But, in fact, it does when practiced in a certain way.
Restricting food intake every second day has been shown to have a positive effect on brain function. Indeed, this type of fasting stimulates the growth of new brain cells and provides protection against Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.
6. Exercising regularly
The same experiments also showed that the effects of exercise were still present two weeks after stopping exercising. Tests on elderly human subjects also showed that daily aerobic exercise improved performance in memory tests.
7. Playing a musical instrument
Several studies have made connections between learning musical instruments and increased intelligence levels.
One study also found that not only was there a measurable difference in general cognitive ability between those who had learned to play musical instruments and those who had not but that those who played musical instruments also performed significantly better in seemingly unrelated tasks such as spelling.
Why not try any of these things to see if they make you smarter? If you already did, have you noticed a difference in your performance of certain tasks? Share your thoughts with us!
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