Intelligence is not static. But finding ways to stimulate your cognitive abilities on a daily basis when you’re already dealing with life’s other demands can be a challenge. Not everyone has the time to indulge in long-winded intellectual pursuits on top of work. The solution? Finding unique, creative ways to increase your intelligence — things that you can easily incorporate into your routine and even enjoy.
But beyond adding intelligence-boosting activities to your arsenal of habits, there is another cool fact to keep in mind: The simple perspective shift of believing that you can increase your intelligence is enough to make you smarter. Social psychologists discovered the positive effects of teaching students about IQ malleability — the students who thought of intelligence as changeable performed better than the ones who didn’t receive this message.
So the first step to getting smarter is believing that it’s possible. And once your mindset is in the right place, you can begin to take action towards improving your intellectual capacities. Ready to start? Here are six unique ways to increase your intelligence.
Ramp up your cardio
If you needed another reason to exercise, here it is. But do try to squeeze some cardio in your workout routine. Studies show that higher levels of cardiovascular fitness are associated with better memory function and that exercising during midlife can protect against dementia and increase cognitive performance.
Learn an Instrument
Musical pursuits drive brain plasticity (the ability of the brain to rewire itself), according to science. For example, a study comparing musicians and non-musicians found that the musicians not only had more grey matter (the network of neurons responsible for processing information), but they also showed very little decrease in grey matter density over time. Getting smarter and fighting the effects of aging is a win-win. Plus, learning an instrument can be a fun hobby.
Get a brain-training app
Brain-training apps are increasing in popularity. Downloading one is a fun way to multitask and flex your brain muscles while commuting or waiting in line. For example, Lumosity allows you to mix and match different games into a daily program. Or try Peak, which features a collection of over 30 brain-training activities covering subjects such as memory or language. There are plenty of options to keep you both challenged and entertained straight from your phone (so much better than mindlessly scrolling).
Ditch the GPS
Scientists at University College London came to the surprising conclusion that the brains of cab drivers actually grow on the job. Having to learn their way around the city had positive effects on the cognitive functions of taxi drivers. So, how can you use this information to your advantage? Ditch the GPS every once in a while and rely on your internal navigation system to get an intellectual edge in all areas of your life.
Avid note-takers are onto something. According to a University of Oregon study, storing more items in your short-term memory is linked to greater fluid intelligence. And carrying a notebook to jot down thoughts, ideas and to-dos is a great way to increase the amount of information you memorize on a day-to-day basis, which can in turn have positive consequences on your IQ.
A study of Einstein’s brain associated his brilliance with the fact the left and right side of his brain were well connected, giving him the ability to leverage both creativity and logic simultaneously. If you care about increasing your intelligence, it’s worth looking into activities that tap into both hemispheres of the brain. Chess is one of them. Plus, many extremely successful people also enjoy playing chess as a hobby, which says something about the effects the highly strategic game can have on performance.