10 everyday habits that will make you smarter, according to psychology

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Who doesn’t want to be smarter? 

Well, many of us assume that we’re either born with a certain level of intelligence or that getting smarter is really hard.

The truth is that while some intelligence is genetic, a significant amount is environmental and educational. We can get smarter through what we learn, do and are exposed to. 

Much of it comes down to everyday habits that we all have the power to make part of our lives. 

Let’s take a look at ways to boost your long-term intelligence, all backed up by psychological research: 

1) Read an article or chapter every day

Engage in reading diverse materials regularly, including books, articles, and research papers. 

Reading stimulates the brain, enhances vocabulary, and exposes you to new ideas and perspectives. There’s really no downside! 

A recent study of identical twins discovered that early reading skill leads to higher intelligence in adult life. 

The research all points in one direction: read daily and get smarter!

As psychology writer Abigail Wise notes:

“Not only does regular reading help make you smarter, but it can also actually increase your brainpower. Just like going for a jog exercises your cardiovascular system, reading regularly improves memory function by giving your brain a good workout.”

2) Learn a new skill

Cultivate a growth mindset by seeking out opportunities for learning and skill development. 

This could involve taking courses, attending workshops, or pursuing hobbies that challenge your intellect.

Find a new skill you want to work on and set aside some time each day to keep building on your knowledge and abilities when it comes to that skill. 

Learning a new skill every day is a great goal to have. 

“Neurologists tell us that learning a new skill changes the physical structures of the brain. By stimulating neurons in the brain, more neural pathways are formed; the more pathways that are formed, the faster impulses can travel,” notes Alison Rodericks.

“This brain chemistry increases the white matter (myelin) in your brain.”

3) Learn a new fact

Cultivate curiosity by exploring new interests, asking questions, and seeking out novel experiences. 

Accumulating more knowledge isn’t about how many facts you know or how many statistics you can recite:

It’s about the process of learning itself, which builds fluid intelligence rather than just crystallized (stored) intelligence. 

Curious individuals tend to be more intellectually engaged and open-minded, leading to continuous learning and growth.

“I’m not just talking about increasing the volume of facts or bits of knowledge you can accumulate, or what is referred to as crystallized intelligence—this isn’t fluency or memorization training—it’s almost the opposite, actually,” explains psychological researcher Andrea Kuszewski at Scientific American.

“I’m talking about increasing your fluid intelligence, or your capacity to learn new information, retain it, then use that new knowledge as a foundation to solve the next problem, or learn the next new skill, and so on.”

4) Do a brain teaser or puzzle

Sudokus are for more than just passing the time: they build brain cells. 

Puzzles, crosswords, memory games and all manner of brain teasers are an excellent daily activity to work into your schedule. 

Even a short amount of these activities each day will pay off with increased acumen and intelligence in every area of your life. 

As this 2019 study from the University of Exeter concludes:

“Working on a puzzle reinforces connections between brain cells, improves mental speed and is an effective way to improve short-term memory. Puzzles increase the production of dopamine, a chemical that regulates mood, memory, and concentration.”

5) Question an assumption

Develop your critical thinking skills by questioning assumptions, evaluating evidence, and considering alternative viewpoints. 

Critical thinking is crucial, especially in today’s society which has become so politically and socially polarized. 

By questioning an assumption of our own, society or our culture, we don’t necessarily need to change our view: it is simply that we look at it from a new perspective and gain much more self-awareness, emotional intelligence and fluid intelligence in the process. 

As Psychologs magazine notes:

“Critical thinking encourages people to challenge their own beliefs and, in the process, refine them. Further, it makes individuals more capable of articulating their thoughts and ideas intelligently.”

6) Meditate daily

Incorporate mindfulness meditation into your daily routine to enhance focus, attention, and cognitive flexibility. 

Mindfulness practices have been shown to improve various aspects of cognitive function over time.

It’s no exaggeration to say that meditating on a regular basis literally makes you smarter.

Even just ten minutes a day of quiet mindfulness meditation will have great rewards for you in terms of building your intelligence capacity.

As CFI explains of a recent study:

“The results showed that participants who meditated showed an average gain in IQ of 23 percent. One of the reasons is that deep meditation slows down brain activity. With slower brainwaves, the brain increases its ability to reorganize itself. When you give your brain some rest, it improves itself.”

7) Exercise physically

Prioritize regular physical activity, as it not only improves physical health but also boost brain power.

Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, promotes neuroplasticity, and boosts mood and concentration.

Exercise also has an overall effect of bringing down anxiety, insomnia, overthinking and other habits that can sap actual fluid intelligence and reasoning ability. 

When you give your body the workout it needs, your brain has room to breathe and work at full capacity. 

“Exercise can also boost memory and thinking indirectly by improving mood and sleep, and by reducing stress and anxiety,” notes Dr. Scott McGinnis of Harvard University.

“Problems in these areas frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment.”

8) Eat and sleep well

Maintain a balanced and nutritious diet rich in brain-boosting foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. 

Certain nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, also greatly boost brain health.

The importance of restful and sufficient sleep also can’t be overstated. 

Ensure you get enough high-quality sleep each night, as sleep plays a crucial role in memory consolidation, learning, and cognitive performance. 

Establish a consistent sleep schedule and create a peaceful and comfortable sleep environment. Invest in a comfy and back-supporting mattress! 

9) Socialize moderately

Engage in meaningful social interactions with friends, family, and colleagues. 

Socializing stimulates the brain, enhances emotional intelligence, and provides opportunities for learning and personal growth.

Although you want to still keep enough time to get your work done and have time for reflection, solitude and your other hobbies, socializing is a wonderful thing to do at least a bit each day.

As the Asbury Foundation notes

“Building social networks and participating in social activities are like exercises for your brain because they keep your mind agile and improve cognitive function.

Socialization can even help prevent mental decline and lower the risk of dementia.”

10) Reflect on the day

Set aside time for reflection and self-assessment each day. 

Reflecting on past experiences, successes, and failures allows for insights and learning opportunities.

This contributes to personal development and your intelligence. 

The more you understand about what went well or could have gone better each day and what you felt and thought in various situations, the more your view of life broadens out and insights come which can be game-changers in planning your next steps.

As Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Wellness Coach Rebecca Capps notes:

“Self-reflection is a practice that can help us slow down, turn inward, and gain insight into our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.”

If you want to become a better person in life, start embracing these 10 daily habits

If you want to succeed in life but always lack motivation, say goodbye to these 9 habits