Despite common opinion, intelligence is not something you are simply born with. Of course, your genetics mean a lot when it comes to intelligence, but extensive scientific studies demonstrate that you can improve your cognitive performance throughout the years. This is a continuous process as intelligence improvement is more of a lifestyle than a one-off fix.
High intelligence is often a side-effect of proper treatment of your body and mind. It sounds simple, but it takes time to get used to taking care of yourself. To help you with this endeavor, completion of short-term goals will give you a dopamine boast, which in turn will provide momentum that will keep you on track for achieving longer-term results.
We pulled up together a list of habits that will help you to improve your cognitive skills.
Spoiler: the nervous system and the endocrine system work on the same team and keeping them healthy is key to a high-score intelligence level.
So what should you do?
1. Exercise regularly
A 2018 study showed that stress-free mild exercise increases hippocampal neuronal activity, improving spatial memory performance. In other words, even a light exercise improves your cognitive processes – memory in particular.
You probably are aware that as you get older, your cognitive processes become slower.
It is a well-known fact that the hippocampus shrinks in late adulthood, leading to impaired memory and increased risk for dementia. A popular solution to keep your brain highly functional is to engage in intellectual activities. Often, the smartest of us forget to take care of their bodies, but neuroscientists all over the world keep confirming the link between muscular and neural health.
In 2011, another neurobiology study proved that aerobic exercise training selectively increases hippocampal volume. Participants in this test were between 55 and 80 years old and scientific group claims that ‘greater amounts of physical activity are associated with sparing of prefrontal and temporal brain regions over a 9-y period, which reduces the risk of cognitive impairment’.
What does this mean for you?
If you feel any tension or stress in your body, or if you experience headaches or get tired easily, a gentle exercise like a morning stretch or a jog can help. On top of that, if you start exercising now you will be improving your cognitive performance and decreasing your chances of having a cognitive decline as you grow older.
2. Get enough sleep
The 2008 research ended with a conclusion that lack of sleep affects cerebral metabolism, cognition, emotion, and behavior consistent with mild prefrontal lobe dysfunction. By not sleeping enough, you are limiting your cognitive possibilities and even decreasing your emotional intelligence level. When you sleep, your brain organizes and consolidates memories you had created throughout your day. It means that your brain is getting ready for a new day and creates space to receive new information when you wake up. Sleep well and let your brain serve you properly!
3. Reduce chronic stress & meditate
Our body is all connected. When we are affected by stress, our neural, cardiovascular, autonomic, immune and metabolic systems respond. We only have as much power to resist life challenges and our brain is what keeps us sane. The burden of chronic stress affects our behavior and we often find ourselves drowning in unhealthy habits. Our nervous system is what gets us through this life and high intelligence is profoundly linked with our mental health.
Give yourself a break and treat yourself with respect. One of the signs of intelligence is the ability to focus on a topic and solve complex problems. A study conducted by Pawel Holas of University of Warsaw and Tomasz Jankowski of John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin suggests that mindful meditation has a positive impact on attention skills. They explain this phenomenon by taking into account the number of thinking resources spent on irrelevant attempts to cope with anxiety. In other words, by restructuring your stress and giving yourself some time to digest it, you are freeing the space for your cognitive processes to blossom.
4. Keep on learning to stimulate your intelligence
Being successful means staying on top of things. Continuous education is the key to maintaining your intelligence level. Same as physical exercise, continuous learning proved to be a solution for cognitive impairment in older age.
Besides taking classes or reading books, engage in social activities. Stay open-minded and keep yourself interested in events around you. Intelligence requires us to engage with other humans since interaction with other people is a basic human need. There were longitudinal researches that provided evidence of the correlation between social isolation and poor cognitive health.
In other words, staying social means being smart.
5. Maintain a healthy diet
You definitely heard this one before.
Remember to eat foods with nutrients that support brain function. Keep an eye on your diet and make sure you are consuming enough Omega-3 acids (often found in fish and fish oil), flavonoids (a diverse group of plant chemicals found in fruits, vegetables, grains, bark, roots, stems, flowers, and tea), and vitamin K (found in spinach, broccoli, and kale, among other foods).
Based on a neuropharmacological research, Omega-3 fats are structural components of the brain and are indispensable for neuronal membrane synthesis. Omega-3 is used to counteract neurodegeneration and improves your brain cells’ integrity.
A review of topic-related studies has shown that by maintaining a proper level of flavonoids and vitamin K human body benefits cognitive outcomes and helps to prevent dementia.
Based on our tips above, intelligence isn’t about being extra-educated or knowing more than other people. It’s about stimulating your neurons, maintaining your brain effectiveness and being attentive to your body. By paying attention to your mental and physical health and maintaining a conscious lifestyle you may be able to boost your brain health and enhance your cognitive processes. Positive results in your life will likely follow shortly afterward.
Written by Alina Trubchaninova