For those of you looking to up your creativity and productivity as you make yourself smarter, then this list of brain-improving activities and ideas is for you. In fact, some of you might have already tried one or two of these activities, but hopefully some others will surprise you. And, of course, I’d love it if you could leave your own ideas after the article, in case I missed any other good ones.
Learn a Foreign Language
Language acquisition is a very complex process, one that we most often go through as babies and young children when our brains are still developing. A way to again create a similar development in our brains is to try to learn a new language when we are adults. Doing so will give us a complicated task that will train our minds in new ways, while also reinforcing our own understanding of our native tongue. It essentially sharpens our brains and helps us withstand memory problems as we age.
Create a Reading List
Reading lists give us a way to target our learning by helping us to focus on the kinds of information that we consume. We can create reading lists by subject area, by region or culture, and by time period in human history. Any sort of focused reading will allow us to delve into concepts to help us have a much better understanding, which helps our brain focus on complex tasks.
Another way to make yourself smart is to broaden your understanding of culture, such as the fine arts. Watch movies, visit art galleries, listen to music; cover your own culture or another culture. This kind of appreciation for culture can expand your mind in ways that you don’t often do, most likely, at your job. Understanding the arts will help you understand how and why society’s sometimes act the way they do. Plus you’ll be able to have great conversations at parties.
Get Enough Sleep
Have you ever tried to drive when you’ve had a bad night’s sleep? Scary, right? Well, think of how not getting enough sleep can also affect your mind’s activity. Sleeping at night gives our brain cells rest so that they can recharge and clear our heads. Research, such as that in this article, shows that sleep will actually increase your brain’s ability to function, thus making you smarter and able to process new concepts.
Eat and Drink Healthy
Eating and drinking healthy gives your body the nourishment it needs to keep your brain in top shape. Furthermore, certain kinds of nutrients can actually increase your neurons ability to function faster and more efficiently. For example, this article reports that food rich in magnesium can prevent migraines and food rich in vitamin B12 can prevent loss of brain function in the elderly.
Engage in Social Networking
When you work to make social connections, either online or in real life, you train your brain’s ability to understand the web of connections between different people and where they come from. Plus it will help you develop your ability to keep peoples’ faces with their names and remember who they are. In fact, recent studies on prisoners kept in solitary confinement show that brain activity had slowed so dramatically as to mirror the brain activity of someone with severe head trauma!
Play Video Games
Several recent scientific studies have shown that playing a certain kind of video game can help you become smarter, because the video games often train your hand-eye coordination, while also forcing you to use your critical decision making skills to traverse the often now extremely complicated worlds in these video games. Researchers in the UK found that children who played a brain training video game daily for 10 weeks actually dramatically improved their math scores.
Seek Out Educational Content Online
The internet can be a great source of distraction, but it also has a wonderful amount of educational resources to choose from. Often, many universities upload videos of lectures from their courses and visiting speakers. There are also many sites that allow you to take free classes, such as MIT’s OpenCourseWare programs. These resources can help you supplement your knowledge of certain topics, whether they are related to your career or your personal hobbies.
Watch Smart Television
Of course, I don’t mean you should watch crazy reality television. No, instead, you should watch educational channels such as The Discovery Channel or the History Channel, as these will often present in-depth documentaries about all manner of interesting subjects. You can also get away with watching intense and complex dramas or other fictional shows, as the often complicated plot lines and relationships between characters will force you to exercise your brain as you track all of the drama. According to the author Steven Johnson, several television shows can increase the viewers “mental acuity.”
Solve Brain Puzzles
Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of brain teasers and other puzzles, like crossword puzzles and numbers puzzles. While some scoff at these kinds of exercises, they really can help you, especially if you are looking for a way to pass the time on a plane flight. It’s better to train your brain than to sit in the seat and watch the latest romantic comedy. The Mayo Clinic says that these puzzles will especially keep your brain going through into old age.
This guest contribution was submitted by Tara Miller, who regularly writes for psychology degree. She especially loves hearing back from her readers. Questions or comments can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org.