We spend a lot of time thinking about how to become smarter, more productive, better equipped to navigate this ever-changing world.
But did you ever stop to think about the ways in which you’re holding yourself back?
Sometimes it’s not about doing more.
It’s about cutting back.
If you want to be more intelligent, say goodbye to these 8 habits.
Your brain will be grateful.
1) Doom scrolling
I’m sure you didn’t need a study to confirm it, but here’s one nonetheless: doomscrolling is linked to poor physical and mental health.
Like most of the planet, I started doomscrolling in 2020 during the global pandemic.
It only took a couple of months for this pesky habit to alter my brain chemistry.
My attention span became a joke, and my mental health was garbage.
(Granted, a pandemic was happening, so I’m sure that was part of the issue.)
Not only that but doomscrolling proved to have a long-lasting effect.
Fast-forward to today, and I still have trouble focusing for long periods, even after I stopped glancing at my news app every 5 minutes.
The more frustrating thing is that I know better.
I worked as a journalist in my early 20s, which gave me a front-row seat at how news is gathered, packaged, and delivered.
Being exposed to distressing information day after day increased my anxiety at an alarming rate.
Once I changed careers, I decided to consume information more mindfully.
Here’s how I do that:
- I turned off all news notifications except for urgent alerts
- I only use reputable and trustworthy sources of information
- I schedule specific times during the week to catch up on news
- I verify all information and rarely share distressing news on social media
- I deep-dive into topics I’m interested in instead of relying on news sites to do the heavy lifting for me
While it’s essential to stay informed, it’s also important to understand that most of what you read online doesn’t impact your ability to lead a meaningful life.
The quality of news sites has dropped in recent years, and many news producers are more interested in making you consume their product rather than in keeping you in the know.
With exceptions, news rarely offers context, explains how the information impacts the world, or encourages you to research further and form your own opinions.
All things that would help you become more intelligent.
There are virtually no benefits to doomscrolling.
Curate your feeds and let go of this habit for good.
2) Staring at screens
Too much screen time can contribute to cognitive fatigue and reduced cognitive performance.
You weren’t born yesterday, so you already know this.
You can feel how constantly switching between phone apps negatively impacts your focus.
How staring at beautiful people on social media makes you feel worse about yourself.
How binge-watching yet another crime drama keeps you up past your bedtime.
Don’t worry: I’m not here to suggest you do a social media detox or throw away your big-screen TV.
But maybe you can cut back a little?
As a lover of social media and crime dramas myself, I have no interest in returning to a time before the Internet.
However, I try to make screen time more productive:
- I follow social media accounts that teach me something useful
- I watch media that both relaxes and engages my brain
- I practice digital decluttering
- I take regular screen breaks
Staring at screens isn’t bad unless it’s excessive.
Don’t let the content you consume dumb you down.
3) Acting like a know-it-all
I mentioned engaging in media that both relaxes and engages my brain.
Ted Lasso fits well into this category, and a quote from the series stayed with me over time.
A curious mind recognizes that there is always something to learn.
A judgmental one is too busy jumping to conclusions to realize that there might be more to a person or situation than first meets the eye.
In short, acting like a know-it-all prevents you from asking questions and subjecting yourself to fresh perspectives.
If you want to become more intelligent, keep an open mind.
You never know who can teach you something valuable.
Multitasking gives you the illusion that you’re accomplishing more in less time.
In reality, the practice has adverse effects on cognitive performance and overall brain function.
Constantly switching between tasks taxes our brains and makes us prone to errors.
Additionally, it’s challenging to encode information into memory when you multitask, leading to decreased learning and retention.
Slow down, engage in deep work, and eliminate unwanted distractions from your life.
Over time, this will impact your intelligence for the better.
5) Sleeping too little
Sleep deprivation doesn’t only make you cranky; it also fries your brain.
As sleep is essential for creative thinking and problem-solving, when you don’t get enough rest, you basically become a less intelligent version of yourself.
I don’t care whether you’re a morning person or a night owl.
Just make sure you sleep for at least 7-9 hours per night.
Taking a vacation every now and then doesn’t hurt, either.
6) Stressing over nonsense
Some things are worth stressing about.
Making rent, your health and safety, life-altering decisions, whether Keanu Reeves would like you if you ran into him on the subway.
Not so much.
A few things that are none of your business:
- What random people think of you
- Minor setbacks and inconveniences
- Other people’s drama
- Future uncertainties
- Why someone ghosted you
- The fact that you’re not *insert adjective here* enough (pretty, witty, fashionable, and so on)
Chronic stress reduces your ability to make good choices and think logically.
Otherwise put, it makes you dumber.
Don’t let it get in your way.
7) Not reading
Reading books brings both joy and knowledge.
It teaches you new things, exposes you to different viewpoints, stimulates your mind, and invites reflection.
It’s also incredibly entertaining.
If you haven’t touched a book in the last year, there’s no time like the present to get started.
Don’t know how?
Pick a book.
You have a book in your house, don’t you? Maybe you have one on your phone? Perhaps you can borrow one from a friend?
Once you locate a book, start reading.
Kidding aside, it can be overwhelming to figure out not only how to find time for reading, but what to read.
As someone who had this dilemma years ago, here’s some advice:
- Audiobooks are basically long podcasts
- Assess what you like in other media and start with that (if you like crime dramas, pick a crime book)
- Ask friends or co-workers for recommendations
- Take your most significant topic of interest and pick a book that revolves around that
- Re-read a childhood favorite
Integrating reading into your daily routine is one of the best things you can do to boost your intelligence.
To quote Dr. Seuss, “The more that you read, the more things you will know.”
8) Doubting your own potential
You can’t become smarter if you don’t embrace a growth mindset.
Believing that intelligence is something you’re born with and that you can’t do anything to change keeps you from trying.
Instead, remember that your brain is a muscle.
It grows stronger with use.
Learn a new language.
Acquire a new skill at work.
Believe that you can, and you will.
Intelligence is multi-faceted.
While your cognitive skills are tied to genes and education, there are things you can do to boost your IQ regardless of age.
And they don’t involve playing a game on your phone, no matter what the game may promise.
Focus on learning new things and ditching mind-numbing activities that do nothing for your mental well-being.
It won’t be long before you notice a positive change in your life.