It turns out some of the things that you do on a regular basis can actually help you become smarter. And if it is a goal that you’re trying to actively work towards, there are some techniques that you need to know about.
Becoming smarter might sound like a daunting task, but it actually might be easier than you think.
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1. Exercising often will give your brain a boost.
Your workout affects more than just your cardiovascular health, muscles, and mood.
“Exercise increases the blood supply to the brain, and it basically brings food to the brain, and this changes the brain from the molecular level to the behavioral level,” Aideen Turner, PT, Cert MDT, a physical therapist and the CEO of Virtual Physical Therapists, told INSIDER. “There’s something called neurogenesis. This is the process where you build new brain connections or neurons, and it’s enhanced with exercise. Exercise also helps to improve the brain plasticity, or the ability of the brain to change and adapt.”
So now you have another reason to make sure you don’t skip your workout too often. In addition to all of the other ways that exercise can benefit your body, it might also give your brain a serious boost.
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2. Mimicking how smart people learn might, in turn, make you smarter.
It might sound sort of obvious but figuring out the ways that smart people think and learn can help you implement these same strategies yourself and, in turn, become smarter.
“Becoming smarter requires developing good learning strategies,” Nancy Cramer, a master practitioner and trainer in neuro-linguistic programming and leadership consultant, told INSIDER. “Learn how smart people learn and then you will be smarter, too. Good spellers, for example, are not necessarily smarter than someone else. They just have a better strategy for memorizing words and accessing them on command. To remember how to spell a word, good spellers take a picture of the word in their minds and then blow it up. When it is time to spell something, they recall the picture and literally see the word in front of them. The smarts is in the strategy. There are all kinds of strategies for learning. By learning the strategy, one can improve their results.”
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3. Try dancing or golfing to exercise your brain.
If you really want to boost your brain, choose an activity that not only works your body, but also your brain. Turner said that activities like dancing and golf can be really good for the brain because they require thinking as well as movement. She noted that these kinds of activities have been found to even protect you against developing Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia as you age.
A 2003 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that dancing — and some other activities — can potentially help lower the risk of dementia. Because you have to think about the choreography — and remember it — when dancing, it challenges your brain.
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4. Focusing on one thing will improve your cognitive function.
You might think that doing a bunch of different things at once is making you more efficient, but that’s not the case. It’s also not helping you much, cognitively-speaking.
The late Clifford Nass, a former professor of psychology at Stanford University, told NPR back in 2013 that people who multitask actually struggle with a lot of different cognitive tasks because they can’t filter out things that are irrelevant, so they can’t focus on what’s important and what’s not.
Instead, try to refocus your brain on concentrating on one thing at a time.
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It’s true. I do.
5. It turns out learning a new language might make you smarter.
It’s likely not all that surprising to people that learning multiple languages can be a really good exercise for your brain.
Ellen Bialystok, a neuroscientist, told The Guardian that being bilingual (and using both languages regularly) can help develop the part of your brain that’s supposed to allow you to pick between languages and focus on the language at hand.
She also conducted a study that found that bilingual patients with Alzheimer’s seemingly handled the disease better than those who spoke only one language. They functioned at comparable levels, despite bilingual patients’ brains exhibiting more damage.
Bialystok said that it’s difficult to know for sure if you have to speak multiple languages from childhood in order for this to have an effect or if you can pick up languages later on and benefit in the same way. Either way, she encourages learning languages whenever you can.
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6. Surrounding yourself with smart people might make you smarter.
Having smart friends might make you smarter too. Researchers found that kids who had a smarter best friend in middle school were themselves smarter by the time they started high school.
Plus, as psychologist James Flynn told the BBC, a smart romantic partner can make you smarter because they expose you to new things, new ideas, and, in many cases, new (and smart) people.
This article originally appeared on Insider from Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.