Here are 7 hobbies that science says will make you smarter

Most people believe that your intelligence is inherent—if you were born a smart person, then you will forever be a smart person.

But this kind of thinking holds people back, as it serves as an excuse for people not to improve themselves intellectually.

In the nature versus nurture debate, the dangerous thing with the nature side of the argument is that it makes us believe that we can’t change who we are.

But recent studies continue to confirm that the opposite is true: you can increase your potential and general intelligence.

Through certain hobbies and techniques, we can spark our brain into building new neural pathways, allowing it to work at a faster and higher level.

Here are 7 hobbies scientifically proven to make you smarter:

1) Meditate

Meditation is well-known for its calming effects. When you take the time out of your day to actually just sit down, think, and breathe, you unbind yourself from the stresses of the world and give your mind and body the opportunity to stretch out and relax.

But meditation has also been found to help people have control over their own brain waves. Not convinced? In 1992, scientists were invited to study the Dalai Lama’s brain waves while he was in a state of meditation.

The researchers found that, when focusing on a certain emotion such as compassion, the Dalai Lama and the other monks could enter into a state of emotional being that was at a higher and deeper level than what most people feel.

Through meditation, they had attained full mastery of their thoughts and emotions. Since then, people have practiced meditation to help control their mind. Imagine having the ability to stop feeling fear or sadness in a tough situation, replacing them instead with confidence?

2) Pick Up Another Language

One simple way to raise your brain game that can directly add value to you through real-world application is learning a new language. Studies have found that bilingual people are significantly better at puzzle-solving than their monolingual counterparts. When you adopt a new language, your brain performs better with mentally strenuous problems and activities, even if those activities have nothing to do with language itself.

It has also been found that having at least two languages under your belt gives you better spatial awareness, and equips you with a stronger and fuller concentration. Why, exactly? Every language has its own structure and way of thinking, and exposing your brain to this different thinking naturally expands its capabilities. Languages can influence us so directly that speaking in a new language can even change your personality.

3) Read Anything and Everything

Whether you are reading Leo Tolstoy’s epic masterpiece War and Peace or the latest young adult series to follow The Hunger Games hype trail, the overall positive effects that come from reading are generally the same: stress reduction, better self-happiness, and a significant increase in emotional intelligence, fluid intelligence, and crystallised intelligence.

These are the parts of your intelligence that enable you to understand the world around you—understanding and responding to people’s emotional needs at a higher level, and piecing together puzzles and finding solutions in everyday life.

4) Exercise

A healthy way to keep your mind as fit as your body is through regular exercise. The problem some people have with exercise is that they try to do too much too fast, which results in having a few sporadic intense work-outs which does little good for the mind and body.

The key is consistency. With regular exercise, your cells are regularly exposed to BDNF, a protein released by the body during exercise that strengthens concentration, learning, memory, and focus.

5) Exercise Your Brain

There are so many ways to work out or exercise your brain—with any smartphone, you have instant access to millions of puzzles, video games, Sudoku, riddles, and other activities that force your brain to actually think.

And while it may seem to be just fun and games, forcing your brain to overcome the mental obstacles offered by these activities increases your neuroplasticity. In simple terms, neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability to reorganize and rearrange itself. When your brain is introduced to new and unfamiliar concepts, it forces it to find different and innovative ways to find solutions to these problems. This opens up new avenues and pathways in the brain, and strengthens your general cognitive ability.

6) Stretch Your Musical Talent

Whether you used to play a musical instrument as a kid or never picked up an instrument in your life, regularly learning and playing a musical instrument is one of the best ways to strengthen your brain. Multiple studies have found that musicians have better cognitive functions, from creativity to motor skills and many more.

When we play musical instruments, the brain is stimulated in the corpus callosum, which is the part which links both hemispheres of the brain and creates new connections. No matter how old you may be, you can still experience mental improvements from strumming a few keys.

7) Cumulative Learning

The problem with most traditional education today is that much the basis on which we are graded comes from final exams and tests which have little to do with anything other than mass memorization.

Students in high school and college have become accustomed to cramming for tests, learning an entire semester’s worth on the night before the exam. This leads to us forgetting everything as soon as it is no longer needed, resulting in zero growth in knowledge and intelligence.

Cumulative learning is the proper learning technique that ensures that you not only learn what you are studying, but you remember it long-term as well. This is done through short but frequent acts of repetition—which is exactly the way we learn languages.

If you are truly looking to learn a new skill or topic, cumulative learning has been proven to be much more effective than traditional learning.

Becoming Smarter: A Lifelong Journey

Increasing your intelligence and learning shouldn’t be something you do with any end-goal in mind. Rather, you should think of it as a lifelong journey of continued learning. Slowly and gradually over the years, you will find yourself mentally growing with these exercises and others like them.

When you begin to notice these changes in your mental toughness and thoroughness, these habits will have long ago become a natural part of your life.

Lachlan Brown