Webster's Dictionary defines intelligence as the ability to learn and understand, or to deal with new or trying situations. Simply put, it's the degree of one's mental sharpness.
It's easy to believe that your intelligence is set, meaning there's no way to "boost" your brainpower. However, many scientific studies have proven the exact opposite. A combination of lifestyle adjustments and mental exercises has been shown to not only increase intelligence, but also to improve general brain health and help prevent disorders associated with aging, such as Alzheimer's disease.
According to most neurologists, the key is to stay mentally active, despite your age. The brain is a complex organ, able to create new connections between nerve cells when it is properly stimulated. These connections lend themselves to optimal brain function and increased intelligence.
Whether you're a Generation Xer, a baby boomer, or an octogenarian, the following five tips will help to boost your mental activity and increase your intelligence.
Get Some Sleep
An adequate amount of restful sleep is an important component of brain function. While scientists argue over its effect on memory and learning, restful sleep provides energy as well as the ability to focus. Both are vital factors in achieving mental stimulation. Some studies have also shown the reverse to be true. More mental stimulation during the day equals better sleep at night.
Notice that we used the term, "restful sleep." The reason is that for many of us, sleeping can be an uneasy experience. While some people suffer from sleeping disorders, most of us can improve the quality of our rest by making a few lifestyle changes. We'll talk about some of them later, as several have positive effects on both sleep and intelligence. For now, we suggest that you do what it takes to make your bed comfortable and your bedroom peaceful. It also doesn't hurt to drink a cup of chamomile tea right before bedtime.
Increase Your Exercise
Exercise benefits our bodies in many obvious ways, but it's also been shown to increase mental sharpness. To begin with, it helps to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, all major obstacles in terms of learning...and sleeping.
Regarding its physical effects, exercise brings oxygen-rich blood to the brain, an important component to overall brain health. Exercise also regulates blood sugar levels. Some recent studies have shown a correlation between impaired glucose tolerance and an undersized hippocampus, the portion of the brain that controls the conversion of short-term memory into long-term.
Forms of exercise such as aerobics, dance, and martial arts all require memorization and are great for promoting mental stimulation. They also help to develop the rhythm and timing circuitry that runs through multiple regions of the brain. During these types of exercise, neural pathways that connect the regions are invoked and stimulated.
Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, certain board games, and card games are great for mental stimulation. Each of them will exercise various brain functions such as lexical recall (memory for words that name things), attention, memory, logic, and pattern recognition. They are accessible to almost everyone, and some only require one player. The key here is that as you advance in skill, you should seek out harder, more challenging versions.
Read More Often
We've all heard the term "reading is fundamental", but the question is, does it make you smarter? Well, for starters, reading has been shown to increase vocabulary quicker than either talking or direct teaching. The benefits of having an enhanced vocabulary are rather obvious and too numerous to mention.
The second benefit of reading is its ability to increase general knowledge while minimizing the absorption of misinformation. The resulting knowledge, along with the accompanying confidence it generates, contributes greatly towards becoming a more skilled speaker and conversationalist. Lastly, reading helps to sharpen both memory and reasoning abilities. As we age, the positive effects are even greater.
Write More Often
Writing is beneficial to your intelligence, as well as your perceived intelligence. Unlike conversation, a written communication is memorialized in physical form. A written document not only gives the reader more time to scrutinize your thoughts, it can also be used as proof of your grammatical and spelling abilities. These factors elevate the importance of your overall writing skills. The bottom line – the more you write, the better writer you'll become.
Writing also helps to nurture creativity by way of exercising the imagination. From "thinking outside the box" and problem solving to creating and conceptualizing, an enhanced imagination has many practical applications. A good tip for increasing your writing is to keep some sort of a daily journal. You can improve your writing skills, exercise your imagination, and reflect on your day, all at the same time.
Stay tuned next month for five more tips that will help sharpen your mind, and increase both your intelligence and your success.