Many people tend to think of intelligence as a static trait; you get what you are born with and you can’t do much to expand on it. As scientists learn more about how the human brain works, however, there are indications that intelligence may be more fluid than people expect. While you might not become a rocket scientist by just using daily brain exercises, you do have the power to increase your cognitive abilities and encourage sharper thinking as your brain and body age. Let’s take a closer look at the possibilities that do exist in shaping your own intelligence outside of the academic environment.
The 10% Myth
You've probably heard the persistent myth that we only use 10% of our brains, which is far from the truth. Still, the myth lives on because it represents a much more likely reality. Many people don't use their brains to capacity, since they settle into routines and allow their minds to become complacent without any regular cognitive challenges. Most people do use far more than 10% of their brains, but many are still at risk of losing what they don’t use. Unfortunately, it is much easier to diminish your brain power than it is to boost it. Mindless activities and a routine lacking intellectual stimulation can be felt as a loss of intelligence, and the effects of this may be much more significant later in life with the onset of common conditions like dementia.
Intelligence vs. Technical Skills
When you think about raising your intelligence, you should take a moment to consider the difference between overall cognitive function and distinct technical skills. For most people, an effort to increase brain power will likely be limited to activities like puzzles and memorization tasks. These activities certainly boost your brain’s workload and can give your mind a little more plasticity, but to truly affect your intelligence, you need to perform activities that significantly challenge you. Thinking to the point of discomfort is considered a necessity for getting smarter, which means that in order to become more intelligent, you may need to participate in activities that you're not particularly good at. On your quest for increased intelligence, physical activity is also important, because your brain is a physical entity that benefits from sufficient sleep, exercise, and a balanced diet.
Positive Brain Health Rituals
If you are not ready to jump head-first into completely new intellectual territory, there are many small tasks you can do to make a smaller leap in your intelligence. Using technology more creatively, for example, is an effective way to help your brain work a little harder. Instead of participating in passive activities like watching videos or keeping tabs on your Facebook feed, try using web-based tools to explore learning resources like in-depth research articles, puzzles, and programs to promote learning a second language. Surrounding yourself with clever friends can also be a boost for your own intelligence, since you might feel compelled to challenge yourself more often.
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