At the very least, you can improve the functioning of your brain, and you can adopt learning strategies that will improve your ability to acquire, retain, and apply knowledge.
Below you’ll discover 14 ways to increase your IQ and improve the way in which your brain functions.
1. Walk Around the Block. Dr. John Medina, a molecular biologist, argues in his book, “Brain Rules”, that if we were to design an almost perfect anti-brain environment, it would look like our current classrooms and work cubicles.
Why? Because a protein called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor)–which builds and nourishes the infrastructure of cell circuitry in the brain-is created when you’re physically active.
Referring to BDNF as a brain fertilizer, Dr. Medina equates a group of kids sitting around in a classroom listening to a lecture, or an employee sitting in a cramped cubicle typing away at his computer, with a light bulb that is turned off. However, when the kids are out on the playground, or the employee is walking to work, the light bulb is turned on.
He suggests that employees have “walking meetings” in a treadmill conference room, that they move around the office as they speak on the phone, or that they sit on exercise balls and bounce up and down as they read their e-mails. (Source).
In addition, Dr. Medina explains that in 18 studies of older adults, those who exercised outperformed those who did not in long-term memory, reasoning, attention, problem-solving, abstract thinking, and more. He goes on to say that an active lifestyle means half the risk of dementia and half the risk of cognitive impairment for these older adults.
2. Take Deep Breaths. Low oxygen levels in the blood have been shown to decrease brain function. By breathing deeply through the nose you can improve the functioning of your brain immediately. Deep breaths put more oxygen in the blood and, therefore, in the brain.
3. Keep a Journal. Catharine M. Cox, author of “Early Mental Traits of Three Hundred Geniuses”, studied the habits of 300 geniuses — such as Isaac Newton, Einstein, and Thomas Jefferson – and discovered that they were all “compulsive” journal or diary keepers. Also, keep in mind that Thomas Edison wrote 3 million pages of notes, letters and personal thoughts in hundreds of personal journals throughout his life.
You can think of a journal or a notebook as an extension of your brain. Keeping a journal doesn’t just allow you to record your ideas; a journal will also help you to develop and refine them.
4. Explore New Things. A “smart” person is someone who has more interconnected neural pathways than others. At the same time, as we learn new things, we create new neural pathways. Enroll in an online course, go to interesting lectures you read about in your local paper, and pick up a book on a new subject. Learning new things promotes neurogenesis.
5. Take Frequent Short Breaks. Study for twenty minutes and then take a short break. This is effective because things at the start and end of a study session last in your memory for a longer period of time. Get yourself a simple kitchen timer and set it to twenty minutes. When the timer rings, take a short break.
6. Improve Your Memory. Increase the amount of information that you’re able to retain by applying memory techniques. One of the best ways to remember information is by using acronyms. An acronym is simply an abbreviation that is formed by using the initial letters of a word.
These types of memory aids can help you to learn large quantities of information in a short period of time. Here are two examples:
- “Every Good Boy Does Fine” is a common acronym used to help musicians and students to remember the notes on a treble clef stave.
- “My Very Earnest Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles” is an easy way to remember the planets (just keep in mind that Pluto has been demoted to a dwarf planet).
7. Eat breakfast. Eating breakfast has been proven to improve concentration, problem solving ability, mental performance, memory, and mood. Breakfast is the first chance the body has to refuel its glucose levels after eight to 12 hours without a meal. Glucose is the brain’s main energy source.
8. Use Your Body to Help You Learn. Movement is a key part of the process of development and learning. Brain Gym is a program of simple exercises, developed over a 25 year period by a remedial educational specialist, Dr. Paul Dennison. Brain Gym exercises can help with things such as:
- Abstract Thinking
- Mental Fatigue
- Completing tasks
One brain gym exercise is called “Brain Buttons” and involves doing the following:
- Take one hand and place it so that there’s as much space as possible between the thumb and the index finger.
- Place your index and thumb into the slight indentations below the collar bone on each side of the sternum. Press lightly in a pulsing manner.
- At the same time, put the other hand over the navel area of the stomach and pres gently.
- Do this for about two minutes.
This exercise will improve blood flow to the brain and will essentially turn it “on”. Go here to find two more simple brain gym exercises (Cross Crawl”, and Hook Ups”).
9. Meditate. Neuropsychologists now say that meditation can alter brain structure. MRI scans of long-term meditators have shown greater activity in the brain circuits involved in paying attention.
When disturbing noises were played to a group of meditators undergoing an MRI scan, they had relatively little effect on the brain areas involved in emotion and decision-making as compared to non-meditators or less experienced meditators.
10. Stay Away From Sugar. Any simple carbohydrates–such as pasta, sugars, white bread and potato chips–can make you tired and lethargic. Sometimes called the “sugar blues”, this sluggish feeling makes it hard to think clearly. It results from the insulin rushing into the bloodstream to counteract the sugar rush.
11. Cultivate Your Emotional Intelligence. It’s not enough to have a high IQ. High IQ is just potential. The questions is, what are you going to do with that potential? You need to make sure that, whatever your IQ happens to be, you make good use of it. And one of the best ways to make sure that you make good use of your IQ is by developing your emotional intelligence.
For many years a lot of emphasis was placed on certain aspects of intelligence, such as the following:
- Logical reasoning;
- Math skills;
- Spatial skills;
- Understanding analogies:
- Verbal skills; and so on.
However, in recent years, and particularly with the publication of Daniel Goleman’s book, “Emotional Intelligence”, it has become clear that a lot of people waste their potential by thinking, behaving and communicating in ways that hinder their chances to succeed.
That is, emotional intelligence is being recognized as a meta-ability which will allow you to take full advantage of your other skills and talents. Take a free emotional intelligence test here.
12. Use Downtime. Use down time, time spent commuting or waiting in line, productively. Complete crossword puzzles or sudokus while waiting in line and listen to audio programs while commuting.
13. Engage All of Your Senses. Researchers have found that the human brain learns best through multi-sensory association. Children and adults learn best when they’re engaged in a learning activity that uses sight, sound, emotions, tactile feedback, spatial orientation, and even smell and taste.
Mike Adams explains in “The Top Ten Technologies: #10 Superlearning Systems” that a child who is given the definition of the word “weightless” in a verbal format gets that information in one channel: the audio channel. Here’s how to increase learning and retention:
- If you show the child a movie of an astronaut floating in space while you’re saying the word “weightless,” you now have a two-dimensional learning experience: the child both sees and hears the word.
- In addition, if you have the child bounce up and down on a trampoline and shout “weightlessness” when the child is up in the air, an understanding of the word becomes even more firmly implanted in his brain.
This also applies to adults. If there’s information that you’re trying to learn, use as many different channels as possible, and engage as many of your senses as you can, in order to make learning and retention easier.
14. Load Up on Antioxidants. Antioxidants protect all your cells, including brain cells. Some of the foods highest in antioxidants include: prunes, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, garlic, kale, cranberries, strawberries, spinach, and raspberries.
Increasing your brain power will allow you to live your best life. Use the techniques described above to help you increase your IQ, improve the functioning of your brain, improve your learning ability, and live up to your IQ’s potential.
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