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How to become smarter: the best 10 tips to boost your brain

July 6, 2022 - 13 min read

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Is there anything I can do to be smarter?

10 habits that can help you become smarter

The different types of intelligence

Your next steps

Have you ever felt like certain coworkers, friends, or family members learn new skills easily? Somehow, these individuals seem brighter than the rest of their peers. 

You might be wishing you had these smarts. Whether you want to advance your career, gain a new talent, or simply perform better in all of life, added intelligence could be the key. 

The good news? Everyone has the ability to learn how to become smarter. You’ve even likely experienced this process yourself throughout your education. Almost everyone would say they feel smarter after 4 years of college than before. 

In today’s fast-paced world, however, what are some simpler ways to become smarter? With a few new habits, you can tap into your brain's power and become smarter fast. 

Is there anything I can do to be smarter?

Can you become smarter throughout your life? Well, you can certainly learn more. You can gain experience and seek out a greater variety of experiences. And you can adopt new practices that may help you learn faster. 

Your intelligence isn’t a set trait that you’re born with. Yes, certain individuals might naturally be able to pick up new skills, languages, or talents more quickly. However, you can train yourself to do the same.

That said, boosting our intelligence doesn’t come without effort. Our lifestyles need to be able to support brain growth. 

The food you eat, your growth versus fixed mindset, and how well you take care of yourself all play a role in your ability to become smarter. The small daily habits that you choose to carry out can make a big difference in your efforts to become smarter.

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10 habits that can help you become smarter

Plenty of hacks and daily habits can help people on the road to becoming smarter. However, keep in mind, what may work for some may not work for others. Try out all of the habits below to see a real impact on your intelligence. 

Here are 10 habits to incorporate into your daily life to become smarter:

1. Read more

Reading can introduce you to new topics that stimulate your neural pathways and improve brain health. Whether you grab a book from your shelf, download a reading app on your phone, or stop by the library, the important thing is to take the time to actually read.

For an added bonus, consider trying non-fiction when selecting your next book. You’ll both learn new information and grow your vocabulary. 

2. Surround yourself with like-minded people

Spending time with smart people isn’t going to magically make you smarter. However, it will help you make connections with people who will inspire and motivate you to continue learning. Exposing yourself to new opinions and perspectives will give you more to think about. This is one ideal method for how to become smarter faster.

3. Start exercising daily

Numerous studies show a strong connection between physical exercise and brain function. When you are physically active, activity increases in your hippocampus — the part of your brain that promotes neuron growth. This neuron growth can then improve brain function, which is a great way to become smarter.

Whether you sign up for your city’s marathon or start a daily 30-minute walk, any form of exercise will certainly help make you smarter.

4. Learn a new language

Speaking more than one language exercises your cognitive abilities and improves how well you can multitask. This is because switching between languages takes a lot of concentration, focus, and self-control.

In fact, some studies show that bilingual people are smarter than the rest of us. So if you want to know how to become smarter, signing up for your nearest language class is a great way to get started.

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5. Look for learning opportunities

You don't have to stop learning if you aren't a student anymore. Today, knowledge is endlessly available online — often for free or at a very low cost. Try listening to a podcast about a topic you’re interested in, or tune into TED talk videos.

You can also join a website like Skillshare or Udemy. Imagine how much smarter you’ll feel after dedicating 30 minutes on the weekend to learning something new. 

6. Lower your screen time

If you want to become smarter every day, begin by keeping track of your screen time. Studies have shown that excessive smartphone use is detrimental to cognitive performance. Try using an app to set screen time limits and send mindfulness reminders throughout the day.

You can also delete unnecessary apps from your phone or create a daily habit of not using your phone until after breakfast, for example. 

7. Practice meditation

Meditation is a powerful tool for improving brain function and increasing emotional intelligence. If you feel busy or overwhelmed, a meditation practice can allow you to pay attention to your body and how you’re feeling. This, in addition to using meditation to manage stress and anxiety, can free up space in your brain to focus and learn new skills.

8. Explore video games

In moderation, video games can help people develop decision-making skills and improve their focus. There are many educational games that teach people skills, such as math and linguistics. In addition, fantasy and adventure video games can strengthen inferencing skills that carry over into real life.

9. Try caffeinated drinks

We all know that coffee gives us more energy. In addition, caffeine stimulates your ability to concentrate, puts you in a better mood, and can increase motivation. Being more alert will help you understand new information better. If you want to become smarter faster, a cup of caffeinated tea or coffee could be the push you need to get your brain working at top speeds.

10. Let your imagination run free

Allowing yourself to daydream and think creatively can help you process information and connect ideas. Sometimes we force ourselves to think too critically or seriously. When instead, we relax our minds and let ourselves think creatively, it can stimulate our brains to remember things clearly. 

11. Reflect on what you've learned

When people talk about wanting to be smarter, it isn't just about knowing a body of knowledge or technical specs. Often what they really mean is being able to do more with what they know. Maybe it's to be able to make better choices.

When we think of someone in life whose "smartness" we aspire to, it might be a person who is able to connect the dots quickly, or in surprising ways. It's someone who can see the needed chain of steps to get a project done or grasps the implications of a new technology or the way a public policy might affect their opportunities.

This type of intelligence gets a boost from reflection. Reflecting every day on what we've experienced and what we've taken away as a result, is the core of learning. It helps you identify patterns and to start seeing the world through a lens of patterns and change.

Starting new habits can be tough. Sometimes, you need some support to add new things to your daily routine and develop the habits of reflection and learning. If that sounds like you, a BetterUp coach could be the perfect fit to help you stay on track. Besides keeping you focused, a coach can ensure that the practices you’re working on are making an impact — for today and for the long term. 

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The different types of intelligence

There are many kinds of intelligence that you can develop as you become wiser and smarter. For example, you might already feel very intelligent when it comes to Excel spreadsheets. That doesn’t mean that you’re limited to only your strengths, however. You can also work on developing your smarts in other areas, like linguistics or music. 

Here are different types of intelligence and the strengths of people who have them:

Linguistic intelligence

  • Writing and using words to express themselves
  • Reading, speaking, and grammar
  • Board games like Scrabble that depend on a knowledge of words

Numerical intelligence

  • Talent for mathematics and puzzles
  • Using logic and reason to solve problems
  • Patterning and probability

Kinesthetic intelligence

  • Physical activity that demands coordination
  • Great control over their bodies
  • Uses tools like building blocks and chalkboards to act out their learnings

Music intelligence

  • Carrying out tunes of music and matches certain pitches
  • Excellent sense of rhythm
  • Creative with sound to create beats

Young-Man-Playing-Guitar-At-Home-how-to-become-smarter

Interpersonal intelligence

  • Great communicators
  • Thrives in collaborative environments
  • Comfortable with negotiating and can read social cues

Intrapersonal intelligence

  • Prefers to work alone
  • Processes emotions well
  • Learns through self-reflection

Spatial intelligence

  • Has an eye for design
  • Excels at drawing and painting
  • Learns best with visual clues

Naturalistic intelligence

  • Understands the natural environment very well
  • Thrives in subjects like biology and geography.
  • Always curious about nature

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With the help of a BetterUp coach, you can learn what type of intelligence you have and how you can refine your skills further. We’ll be there every step of the way to guide you in understanding your strengths.

Your next steps

Keep in mind that being intelligent is not about knowing more than everyone around you. Intelligence means exploring new things and solving problems as they arise. It’s also about helping your brain perform at its best with habits like the ones here.

As you work towards becoming smarter, remember your strengths. You’re already intelligent — you might just want to expand your smarts into other areas. Whether you want to move your career forward by learning a new skill or just finally be able to play the guitar, you’re capable. 

Stay curious, and be proud of any progress that you make. It’ll show up in professional and personal aspects of your life when you make a continuous effort to feed your brain. 

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Published July 6, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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