5 Practical Ways to Get Smarter
For many of us learning stops at the classroom door. Once we’re outside the classroom or have completed our education we rarely think about getting smarter. But evidence has shown repeatedly that the healthier and more active your brain stays throughout your life affects your level of success, happiness, and overall mental health. Brain activity has even been shown to provide some protection against Alzheimer’s and dementia in your older years.
How do we define “smart”?
Some define intelligence as achieving certain benchmarks such as standardized test scores, GPAs, and IQ numbers. Others judge intelligence in a more practical way by our ability to solve problems, learn new things, and our capacity to understand and retain information. No matter what the definition, there is agreement that the brain has an amazing capacity for expansion and adaptation. When the brain is stimulated and challenged, we can improve our overall intelligence. In short, we can get smarter.
Keeping your brain healthy and growing requires more than just taking traditional classes. The brain needs exercise the same as any other part of the body. If we consistently challenge our minds in effective ways, we can continue to get smarter and improve our mental skills throughout our lives. Here are some ways to expand our gray matter.
Learn something daily
We have many opportunities to learn new things as we go throughout our day. We can read the newspaper to find out what’s going on in the world; we can learn a new word, or challenge ourselves with trivia. These are very simple ways to acquire new information. Perhaps the easiest way to learn something new is to read every day. Choose books that help you think about something in a different way or offer new ideas. Classic literature, nonfiction, biographies, or even business magazines are great choices.
Alternatively, commit to a more long-term type of learning. Learn a new language, learn a new skill, or develop an old one. Be curious and try to learn more about things you’re interested in. When you don’t know how to do something, instead of asking someone else how to do it, try to figure it out on your own. It may take longer but you’ll remember it and expand your brain in the process.
Hang around smarties
Interacting with intelligent people helps you to become more intelligent yourself. Engaging in thought-provoking and intelligent conversation allows you to gather knowledge and insights. It also stimulates your brain by encouraging you to get smarter so that you can contribute to conversations and share your own ideas. Surround yourself with at least some people who are smarter than you are. You will be motivated to expand your knowledge so that you can effectively engage with these people. In short, you will be inspired to get smarter so that you can keep up.
Exercise your mind
While it’s important to learn new things and expand your knowledge, it’s also important to keep your brain active and maintain its ability to work efficiently. Your brain needs consistent exercise to stay healthy in the same way that you need to maintain body strength, cardiovascular health, and muscular endurance. Games are a very effective way to keep your brain sharp. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, brainteasers, strategy games, and even video games are all good choices. If you are more academically inclined, math word problems, science experiments and the like are all very effective forms of mind exercise as well.
Another great way to give your mind a workout is to improve your memory. Much of our intelligence is actually tied to our ability to remember things and recall information easily. There are many ways to improve our memory, but the simplest is just to start committing everyday things to memory and quizzing yourself. Memorize some quotes or a poem. Try to remember phone numbers and birth dates rather than relying on your smart phone or calendar. Make a conscious effort to commit to memory names of people you meet. It may be helpful to associate their names with what they do for a living, where they live, or even an image that you can recall.
Get a hobby
Having a hobby is not only a great way to relax and relieve stress but it allows you to access different parts of your brain that you don’t normally use. Creative hobbies also require your brain to create different mental patterns and stimulates your brain synapses in new ways. Playing a musical instrument, learning to dance, draw, paint and sculpt are all effective ways to use different parts of your brain. For the less artistic and more practically inclined, you may prefer to build things or repair things. Practicing and attempting to master any hobby that you enjoy causes your brain to work more effectively.
Try new things
When our brain gets stuck in a rut of always doing things in a routine way, the way were used to doing them, it becomes complacent. In effect, our brain gets bored and stops expanding. Our minds can easily fall into this trap if we do the same things the same way over and over again. The great news is that this is very simple to fix. It sounds silly but just taking a different route – to work, school, the store or even when running or walking wakes your brain up. Mix it up by doing things like brushing your teeth with a different hand, learning new software or using different technology, learning a new sport or a different activity that you’ve never tried. Believe it or not trying something new that you’ve never done before, or changing the way you do something that you do every day, has a huge impact on how smart you are.
The best thing about getting smarter is that it can be fun. Learning something new every day, surrounding yourself with smart people, playing games, enjoying a hobby and trying new and different things affect the quality of the other parts of your life as well. Life becomes more interesting and full of exciting possibilities. Isn’t it wonderful to know that instead of your intelligence declining with age, you can actually get smarter without much effort at all and enjoy life more in the process?