5 Habits Science Says Will Make You Smarter


So, you want to be smarter? You're not alone. Most people have moments when they wish they knew more, remembered more, performed better, or could connect ideas faster than the people around them.

We tend to believe that a person's level of intelligence is genetic, or at least that it is set early on. However, there are always things that we can do to help our brains work better. After all, that's a huge part of being smart: having a brain that is able to function at the top of its game.

1. Eat Breakfast

Kids who eat breakfast perform significantly better in school. In fact, they do better than the non-breakfast eaters even when their breakfast isn't particularly healthy, although healthier breakfasts enhance performance even more.

The brain needs nutrients to function. After a full night's sleep, even if you overate the night before, your brain needs food. When you skip your breakfast, you miss these nutrients. In addition, the study above also notes that most people don't just get these nutrients later in the day. For many of us, breakfast is our best chance at giving our brain all that it needs to work well.

Lots and lots of people don't like breakfast or don't make the time for breakfast. If you're one of these, consider starting with something small and something you really, really enjoy eating. Work your way up to a full breakfast. And if you feel like you can't eat until a bit later in the day, try taking a smoothie with you to work.

2. Exercise

Exercise gives your brain what it needs to grow new neurons which help it store memories and make connections. Exercise helps us think more flexibly and helps office workers raise their productivity. If you can get up to 45 minutes to an hour a day, six days a week, you will put your brain in a good place for optimal functioning.

Getting regular exercise is hard. You're tired. You don't have time. You can't afford a gym membership. Whatever your reasoning, though, it's worth overcoming it so that you can get these benefits that make you smarter.

Start with something that is simple, like walking. Walk on breaks from work, even if it's just around your office. Or walk in the evenings, if the weather is nice. Take family and friends with you, or catch up on your favorite podcast while you walk. Soon, you will have a habit, and you will be able to notice your brain function improving.

3. Spend Time With Intelligent, Creative People

Ideas travel between people, so the more central your position in a group of smart, thoughtful, and creative people, the more interesting news and information you'll be exposed to. A huge part of being smart is connecting ideas in new ways, and to do this you have to hear, see, and experience new and fascinating things.

If you feel like your current group of friends isn't quite where you'd like them to be, don't push them away entirely. It may be that they, too, are not being exposed to new things. Instead, find some interesting people and invite them into your group. Think about the guy at work who always seems to be talking about the new book he just read, or the gal at the gym who seems to know everything about exercise science. Learn all you can from them, digest it, and see how it connects to what you already know.

Make spending time in these kinds of relationships habitual, and you'll soon see the benefits. Your brain will stretch to hold the new ideas. Then new connections will form, and who knows! Maybe you'll be the one with the next innovative, brilliant thought.

4. Get an Extra Hour of Sleep

People who slept less did up to 40% worse on a cognitive test than people who slept more. Even an hour of sleep made a significant difference in computerized mental agility tests. So if you want your brain to work well, you need to give it plenty of rest.

Seven hours seems to be the magic number for most people. Get at least that much sleep, and you will have enough time in REM sleep for your brain to work well. Get less than that, and you may find that you don't remember things as well, haven't fully processed the previous day, and can't think straight.

Getting more sleep is hard for most of us. Sometimes, evenings are the only time you get to relax. Or maybe you're a night owl who struggles to rest before the wee hours. Even if you can only tweak your sleep habits a little bit, it should have a positive effect on the way your brain works.

5. Learn How to Learn

If you did decently well in school, you probably assume that you know how to learn. However, there's almost always room for improvement. For instance, people who learn well tend to spend more time practicing what they are trying to learn than reading about it. They also commit to the long-term process, and find a way to track their efforts, their progress, and what they realize along the way.

Part of being smarter involves acquiring new knowledge skills. When you can do this consistently and efficiently, you will find that your cognitive skills continually increase. Make learning well a habit, and you should feel confident that your brain can handle anything thrown its way.

Do you have any practices that make you smarter? What do you do?

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Thias @It Pays Dividends

I have found that regular meditation has helped me be able to absorb information I am learning more. I've always had a very busy mind, which has led to a terrible memory but since meditating more regularly, I've noticed that I seem to retain more of what I read and hear than before.