You might think that some people are just born more brainy than others but actually, there’s a lot we can all do to improve our brainpower and hence our intelligence. While there is a strong genetic component to intelligence, research shows that IQ is more a result of the way your genes interact with your environment. Therefore, intelligence can be nurtured and it doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time with your nose buried in a book, memorising facts, either! There are lots of ways to stimulate your brain and here are some recommendations:
• Watch less TV – despite the promises of the best art house films or the most educational documentaries, watching TV doesn’t use your mental capacity in any useful way or even recharge it. Hours of staring at the monitor simply leave you feeling drained, with sore and tired eyes. So resist the temptation to just vegetate in front of the box – have a conversation with your friends or family instead, if you don’t have the energy to read a book or indulge in a creative activity.
• Read more – although choose your reading material wisely. Naturally, it is important to relax and enjoy your reading time with more popular material such as magazines, comics and commercial fiction but if you really want to stimulate your brain, then make sure that you also spend some time reading challenging literature. Classic novels can change the way you think and help you use more precise, elegant language. They will also help to build up your vocabulary and familiarity with other literary forms, such as allegory and metaphor, which exercise the deeper levels of your mind.
• Get enough sleep – nothing will drain your brain faster than sleep deprivation. Concentration, focus and problem-solving will all suffer if you don’t allow your body enough chance to rest and recuperate. And boring as it may sound, early bedtimes and early rises are the way to go as sleeping late and then sleeping in to compensate simply leave you lethargic, with even more trouble focusing. Short naps during the day can also do wonders for recharging the brain.
• Use your nose – your olfactory senses are one of the first to develop and one of the most strongly linked with mental processes. We all know the way smells can trigger a memory more sharply than sights or sounds. Similarly, inhaling certain scents can have a stimulating effect on the brain, perking you up while others can have a calming, sedating effect. Rosemary is a popular recommendation for waking up the brain. Although research is still needed to prove its effects, this is one safe trick that’s worth a try.
• Become a writer – you don’t have to try and pen the next best-selling novel but writing is good for your mind in several ways: it helps to clarify your thinking, it can be a way of exercising your analytical thinking or creativity and it is an excellent way to imprint things on your memory. It doesn’t have to be long essays – little daily notes, personal diaries, poetry and ideas are all good ways to boost your IQ.
• Enjoy some music – while there is some claim that classical music, especially Mozart, can stimulate IQ in students, particularly with regards to spatial intelligence, recent research shows little support for this theory. However, there is no doubt that music – in any form – can stimulate your brain and your creativity. Just pick something, with a good rhythm and beat, which you enjoy and feel fired up by. Even better, dance around to the beat and let physical expression enhance your mental abilities even more.
• Eat carbohydrates – yes, forget the trendy diets. Complex carbohydrates are not only good for you, they are essential in providing energy to the brain, particularly as they are slowly digested and so keep blood sugar levels steady. Good foods for the brain include: oatmeal and bran, grapefruit, apples, cherries, oranges, and grapes, legumes, including soybeans, kidney beans, chick peas and lentils, and dairy products.
• Top up on proteins – these affect brain performance because they supply the amino acids which make up the neurotransmitters used in brain signals. For example, one precursor of neurotransmitters is an essential amino acid called tryptophan which can only be gained through the diet. So make sure you eat plenty of seafood, meat, eggs, soy, and dairy.
• Choose fish – especially oily, fatty fish such as salmon, trout and sardines. The brain is made up of 60% essential fatty acids, such as alpha-linoeic acid (ALA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which play important roles in brain neuron communication. Research shows that diets lacking in essential fatty acids lead to seriously impaired learning skills or even possibly to mental disorders, while diets rich in essential fatty acids lead to improved mental performance and IQ scores.
• Get regular exercise – not just important for a healthy body but also for a healthy mind. You might think that time spent exercising is time that could be spent learning but physical stimulation actually increases mental productivity, especially in the period of time immediately afterwards. Getting out in the fresh air and natural light is also a great boost for your brain and can help to really clear your head.
• Believe in yourself – confidence is a self-fulfilling prophecy therefore, if you believe you are more intelligent, you become more intelligent. Make note of your successes and praise yourself when you have a good idea or engaged in a creative activity.
Remember, your brain is similar to a muscle – the more your exercise it in the right ways, the more you will increase its ability and potential.