10 unusual habits that indicate a high level of intelligence

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What comes to your mind when we talk about intelligent people? I’m pretty sure it’s an image of someone whose nose is always buried in books, right? Or maybe a professor speaking in front of a class? A scientist looking closely at test tubes?  

That’s perfectly understandable. But did you know that you can tell someone’s highly intelligent through some odd habits they might have? 

In this article, I’ll explore some of these unusual habits that psychologists have uncovered. You’ll see how intelligence shows up in so many interesting ways! 

1) Staying up late

All right, let’s start with the first one – being a night owl

Studies now show that people with higher IQs tend to be more nocturnal, preferring the peace and quiet of the nighttime to get their creative juices flowing. 

They do tend to wake up later, but that doesn’t mean they get less done. Not at all. They just get stuff done later – in the evenings, with their peak strength at 9 p.m. 

Apparently, it has something to do with a difference in brain chemistry, and whether you’re an early bird or a night owl is partially predetermined by your genes.  

So, the next time you find yourself wide awake in the wee hours, don’t stress. Just remember that it could be your brilliant brain at work!

2) Having a messy desk

Do you struggle with keeping your desk organized? Is your room a picture of chaos with clothes and books and thingamajigs all strewn around? 

It could mean you’re lazy…or you’re highly intelligent!

According to researchers at the University of Minnesota, messiness indicates you’re probably smarter than the next person. 

Because that mess? In a strange way, it sparks your creativity. 

So the next time you’re told to “clean up your mess!”, you can shoot back something like, “No thanks, my brain needs it!”

3) Swearing – a lot

Speaking of mess, it isn’t just your space that’s littered; it’s also your vocabulary

It’s strangely counterintuitive. We often see people who curse a lot as uncouth or less educated, but the opposite is actually true. 

You know why? Because, according to studies, people who swear more often tend to have a larger vocabulary and a better understanding of language. 

Of course, it’s important to mind your manners in certain situations. But don’t be too hard on yourself for the occasional curse word – it could be a sign of your linguistic prowess!

4) Taking cold showers

I never would have imagined that such a mundane habit as this one would be linked to high intelligence, but surprisingly, it is. 

Cold showers have been found to increase alertness, focus, and even creativity. The shock of the cold water forces your body to adapt quickly, which can lead to improved problem-solving skills and mental clarity. 

Knowing this now, I can finally understand why Dutch motivational speaker Wim Hof has been espousing cold showers for years. 

And why so many CEOs include a cold shower in their morning routines. 

Who would have thought a cold shower could be a key to success?

5) Daydreaming

Ah, this one’s a favorite of mine. I’m a true-blue daydreamer, and back in grade school and high school, I was always getting reprimanded for it. 

But I guess at the time, my teachers didn’t know yet that daydreaming could be a sign of greater intelligence

I don’t mean I’m super smart, but, turns out, I’m also not the slacker they all made me out to be. 

Apparently, the more you tend to daydream, the stronger and more efficient your brain is. 

That said, don’t go off into the clouds all the time. No matter how smart you are, you still need to pay attention. My teachers were right on that one, at least! 

6) Doodling

Another thing I find myself doing is doodling and making silly drawings in my notebook while at meetings. 

Do you do this, too? Then I have good news for you – there’s more to it than random lines and curves on paper. It might mean you’re highly intelligent!

Contrary to what people might think, doodling doesn’t mean you can’t focus. It means you’ve got better focus

Don’t believe me? Science says that when you doodle, you activate your brain’s prefrontal cortex – that part responsible for problem-solving, using logic and memory…and focusing. 

So, no need to feel guilty and hide those flowers, stars, stick people, and what-have-you on the pages of your notebook. Those are proof of your brilliance!

7) Being forgetful 

This is another counterintuitive sign of higher intelligence. When someone’s often forgetting things, we often see them as an airhead or a scatterbrain or just plain sloppy. 

But if we go by what research says, that impression couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

You see, highly intelligent individuals tend to focus more on abstract thinking, problem-solving, and critical thinking, which might lead them to overlook some mundane details.

In addition, our brains might be wired to forget certain information intentionally. It’s a way to declutter so that you can prioritize more important info. 

Forgetting unimportant details can help our minds declutter and prioritize more critical information, which, in turn, can enhance cognitive efficiency and decision-making. 

8) Enjoying alone time

If you relish your alone time, this could be another sign of your high intelligence. Studies have shown that smart people tend to be more comfortable with solitude. 

In fact, the more intelligent a person is, the less satisfied they feel with frequent socialization. 

You see, highly intelligent people crave that precious me-time to focus on their thoughts and ideas without distraction. With no one pulling them this way and that or hoisting social pressures on them.  

They prefer to unplug and detach from all the noise online, as well as go on solo adventures or a quiet night in. 

Whatever the setting, the point is, to spend time alone so they have all the space and luxury to mull over things.  

9) Talking to yourself

One of the things highly intelligent people do during their alone time (and sometimes even when with other people) is to talk to themselves. 

I do this a lot. I’m well aware it makes me look weird or crazy, especially when I do it while walking alone. 

But while it’s a social travesty, talking to yourself is actually “a trait of higher cognitive function,” according to scientists at Bangor University

Because it helps to clarify and organize your thoughts. You can process things easier by verbalizing them and hearing yourself. 

Simply put, having that auditory stimulation boosts focus and performance. 

Unfortunately, sometimes, talking to yourself can cross over from having mere conversations to harmful self-criticism…

10) Self-criticism

I find it so ironic that some of the most brilliant people in the world are also among the most insecure. But also not surprising. 

I guess one drawback of being super smart is that you also tend to be more aware of your flaws and shortcomings. You have higher standards, and you impose those standards on yourself, too. 

Plus, when you’re extremely intelligent, you tend to overthink and overanalyze

Put that all together, and it’s easy to see why intelligent people can be so hard on themselves! 

Final thoughts

As you can see, highly intelligent people have quirks and habits that set them apart. Do you recognize yourself in any of these? 

If you do, that’s great! Just remember that no matter what society says, your habits and traits are what make you… YOU. 

Give yourself permission to carry on, never mind if everyone says you’ve got strange habits. Your brain will thank you for it! 

But at the same time, remember that not all these habits are good when taken to the extreme. As with everything else in life, balance is key.  

Roselle Umlas

I am a freelance writer with a lifelong interest in helping people become more reflective and self-aware so that they can communicate better and enjoy meaningful relationships.

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