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Here are 7 hobbies that may make you smarter

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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 Scientific American has suggested that you can increase your fluid intelligence, or your capacity to learn new information, retain it, then use that new knowledge practically. 

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

Here are 7 hobbies that science says could 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.

According to the Wired article that reported on the study:

“The researchers had never seen anything like it. Worried that something might be wrong with their equipment or methods, they brought in more monks, as well as a control group of college students inexperienced in meditation. The monks produced gamma waves that were 30 times as strong as the students’. In addition, larger areas of the meditators’ brains were active, particularly in the left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for positive emotions.”

[To learn more about how to practice meditation, check out my best-selling eBook on how to use eastern philosophy and Buddhism for a better life here]

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.

According to the NY Times, studies have found that bilingual people are 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.

According to a study in Brazil on the effect of bilingualism on cognitive and auditory abilities in normally hearing adults, it “showed that bilinguals had a better performance for the general cognitive function, with a statistically significant difference, as well as for cognitive abilities of verbal, spatial and mechanical reasoning.”

Languages can also influence us so directly that speaking in a new language can even change your personality.

You’ll also make more friends and have fun more things to do! 

3) Read Fiction

Reading fiction might not just be for fun.

According to psychologist Keith Stanovich in CNBC, “if smarter means having a larger vocabulary and more world knowledge…then reading may well make people smarter.”

He says that research has supported this finding “time and again”.

Furthermore, people who read fiction may show higher levels of empathy and emotional intelligence, according to studies in the Public Library of Science and the Journal of Research in Personality.

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. Some studies have suggested that musicians have better cognitive functions. 

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.

(If you’re looking for a structured, easy-to-follow framework to help you find your purpose in life and achieve your goals, check our eBook on how to be your own life coach here).

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.

[If you want to learn more about how to become mentally tough, check out our eBook on the art of resilience here]

Mindfulness has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years.

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Hack Spirit's most popular eBook, The Art of Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Living in The Moment, provides a compelling introduction to the mindfulness phenomenon.

You’ll learn what “mindfulness” really is and you’ll uncover a set of simple, yet powerful , techniques to bring mindfulness into your everyday life.

Check out the eBook here.

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Lachlan Brown

Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you to want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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