The Plug

In today’s complex world, the advantages of enhancing your intellectual abilities are endless. A sharper mind enables faster learning, better decision making, increased earnings potential, and more. While genetics play some role, dedicating effort to regularly challenge and exercise your brain can measurably raise your intelligence over time. This guide provides techniques to expand your cognitive potential and practical steps to become smarter this year.

1. Read Challenging Books and Articles

Making reading intellectually stimulating books a consistent habit exposes you to new concepts, perspectives, and factual knowledge to strengthen critical thinking abilities.

  • Pick thought-provoking titles – Seek out books and long-form articles that require concentration and analysis rather than passive entertainment.
  • Vary your reading list – Expand your horizons by diving into unfamiliar genres, authors, disciplines and opinions that provide fresh ways of seeing the world.
  • Read actively, not passively – Pause regularly to summarize key learnings. Question assertions and think critically about what you read.
  • Retain key information – Jot down important facts, quotes and concepts you want to remember. Revisit your reading journal to reinforce retention.

Reading substantial content outside your comfort zone for at least 30-60 minutes daily provides a mental workout to continually expand your general knowledge and cognitive faculties.

2. Master a Foreign Language

Learning a second or third language challenges your brain by developing skills like memorization, auditory processing, fluid intelligence and mental flexibility. Additional benefits include:

  • Strengthen memory – Memorizing vocabulary exercises the brain’s capacity for recalling and retrieving information.
  • Multitask effectively – Processing and synthesizing different types of linguistic inputs enhances multitasking aptitude.
  • Improve concentration – Focusing on language immersion develop your attention span by eliminating distractions.
  • Elevate decision making – Evaluating complex grammar rules heightens analytical thinking and decision making skills.
  • Delay cognitive decline – Language learning helps protect the brain against age-related deterioration and diseases like dementia.

With so many advantages, make mastering a new language a long-term goal by consistently practicing vocabulary, reading, writing, listening and conversation skills.

3. Exercise and Stay Physically Active

Physical activity provides a potent way to boost brain health and performance in both the short and long-term. Benefits include:

  • Stimulate neurogenesis – Aerobic activity triggers growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus and other regions linked to memory and learning.
  • Increase blood and oxygen flow – Improved circulation while exercising nourishes the brain with nutrients to optimize function.
  • Release beneficial hormones – Working out regularly boosts levels of hormones like BDNF, endorphins, serotonin and dopamine which elevate cognitive abilities.
  • Enhance concentration – Physical exertion followed by recovery creates ideal conditions for activities requiring intense focus and concentration.
  • Reduce stress – Exercise lowers mental stress and anxiety, freeing up executive resources and improving mental clarity.

Make daily movement a habit – even light walking helps – along with more vigorous strength training, cardio and yoga routines several times per week to keep both brain and body performing optimally.

4. Train Your Working Memory

Working memory capacity – the ability to hold information in your mind while manipulating it – strongly correlates with intelligence. You can increase this capacity through targeted practice, like with these apps:

  • Lumosity – Contains games designed around working memory tasks like memorizing sequences.
  • CogniFit – Assesses and provides personalized brain training exercises for improving working memory and focus.
  • Elevate – Offers adaptive activities focused on upgrading short-term memory retention and recall speed.
  • Memorado – Uses flashcard-style drills to expand memory and recall for names, words, phrases and other info.
  • Unlocks – Allows creating custom memory games with personalized content you want to quickly commit to memory.

Performing progressively more difficult memory challenges wires your brain for increased mental quickness, focus and recall. Consistently leveling up your working memory pays cognitive dividends.

5. Get Quality Sleep and Manage Stress

Our brains require quality rest to consolidate memories, process experiences into insights, and flush out toxins that impair function. Be sure to:

  • Prioritize consistent sleep – Adults need 7-9 hours nightly. Developing strong sleep habits enhances cognition.
  • Avoid screens before bed – Light from devices inhibits release of melatonin needed to fall asleep. Unwind tech-free.
  • Nap strategically – Short 20-30 minute daytime naps boost alertness, creativity, and problem-solving abilities when sleep deprived.
  • Manage stress – Anxiety and chronic stress damage memory centers in the brain over time. Adopt relaxation habits like meditation, deep breathing and yoga.
  • Hydrate and eat well – Drink plenty of water and consume a nutrient-rich diet high in brain-healthy foods like leafy greens, berries and avocados.

Committing to both mental and physical rejuvenation through proper rest and lower stress results in higher daily performance and long-term brain health.

6. Train New Skills and Hobbies

Learning new skills forces you to expand your abilities through dedicating concentrated effort and brain power. Helpful activities include:

  • Playing instruments – Learning guitar, piano, drums on Sidetrain or other instruments engages multiple regions of the brain simultaneously.
  • Dancing – Memorizing and practicing choreography sequences, steps and patterns boosts neural activity.
  • Crafting – Pursuits like knitting, jewelry-making, woodworking and painting involve focus, spatial reasoning and fine motor skills.
  • Strategy games – Playing chess, backgammon, bridge, Go, and other strategy games exercises logic, planning, and reasoning abilities.
  • Cooking/baking – Following recipes engages working memory. Experimentation and improvisation spur creativity.

Pick up new expertise outside your comfort zone. The neural connections made learning unfamiliar skills literally make you smarter while keeping life exciting.

7. Engage in Both Analytical and Creative Pursuits

Most education systems focus heavily on developing academic, math, science, and language arts skills – all left-brain dominant activities. Be sure to also spend time exercising right brain creativity through:

  • Drawing/painting – Learning foundations of line, shading, color mixing, proportion, perspective, and composition builds visual-spatial skills.
  • Playing improvised music – Making up instrumental melodies and riffs heightens non-verbal reasoning and cognitive flexibility.
  • Creative writing – Drafting stories, prose, poetry, lyrics or freewriting improves imagination and self-expression.
  • Handicrafts – Sculpting, pottery, origami, beading, bookbinding and more cultivate fine motor skills.
  • Photography – Developing an eye for visual composition, patterns, textures and light exercises right brain aptitudes.

Time spent doing free-form creative activities provides balance. Strengthen both halves of your brain for whole-mind intelligence.

8. Socialize and Have Meaningful Conversations

Social interaction is cognitively stimulating on multiple levels, providing an opportunity to:

  • Practice articulating thoughts – Turning ideas into speech reinforces verbal fluency, memory formation, and information processing speed.
  • Expand cultural awareness – Learning about different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences grows intellectual empathy and emotional IQ.
  • Strengthen critical thinking – Supporting ideas with logic and debating issues respectfully hones reasoning, rhetoric and mental sharpness.
  • Learn collaboratively – Working through challenges together builds teamwork and creates new solutions you may not have considered alone.
  • Develop mental flexibility – Adapting communication styles to different audiences improves mental agility and cognitive control.

Seek out enriching social connections that inspire new trains of thought. The more diverse perspectives you’re exposed to, the more your thinking expands.

9. Take Challenging Classes and Courses

Formal instruction provides structured ways to enhance intellect. Consider:

  • Advanced academics – Take free online MIT, Harvard and other Ivy League lectures in fields like data science, physics, psychology, economics, history and more.
  • Community college – Enroll in affordable evening, weekend or online classes in subjects you want to develop deeper knowledge in like astronomy, writing, ethics or statistics.
  • MOOCs – Use platforms like Coursera, Udemy, edX, and others to take thousands of college-level online courses at low cost.
  • Tutoring – Arrange 1-on-1 tutoring in challenging academic subjects you want to strengthen. Many top tutors offer virtual sessions.
  • Accelerators – Join intensive skills bootcamps focused on gaining expertise quickly – for example, coding, marketing analytics, design sprints, and more.

Supplementing real-world experience with guided coursework gives your intellect an energizing workout to acquire new expertise intentionally.

10. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation

Meditation and mindfulness practices strengthen the parts of the brain responsible for attention, concentration, learning and memory. Benefits include:

  • Improves focus – Regular sitting meditation builds ability to focus without distraction critical for learning.
  • Elevates emotional intelligence – Staying present raises self-awareness, empathy, and emotional control.
  • Reduces cognitive decline – Lowering stress and anxiety protects memory centers and brain volume as we age.
  • Boosts willpower – Increased self-discipline from meditation helps motivate learning and skill building.
  • Promotes neuroplasticity – Mindfulness meditation activates the hippocampus promoting growth of new neural pathways over the lifespan.

Just 10-15 minutes daily spent meditating and being fully mentally present without judgement delivers immense cognitive rewards.

Key Takeaways for Boosting Your Intelligence

  • Read daily outside your norms to expand knowledge and perspective.
  • Pick up new skills and hobbies to rewire your brain making fresh neural connections.
  • Reduce lifestyle stress through better sleep habits, exercise, and mindfulness practices.
  • Strengthen memory, focus and reasoning with brain training apps and games.
  • Socialize, debate, and have meaningful dialogues to sharpen critical thinking.
  • Take interesting classes and self-educate across disciplines to broaden intellect.

With commitment to staying mentally active, challenged and engaged, you can become smarter and expand your cognitive potential at any age.

Frequently Asked Questions About Boosting Intelligence

What is the best way to get smarter?

The most effective ways to increase intelligence include:

Read challenging books – Gains knowledge, vocabulary, and strengthens analytical skills.

Learn new skills – Develops neural networks and pathways through mastering unfamiliar activities.

Take intellectually demanding classes – Increases specific domain knowledge and general cognitive abilities.

Memory and brain training – Improves working memory, processing speed, focus and reasoning capacities.

Lower stress – Protects memory centers and brain volume via better sleep, exercise, and mindfulness.

Have enriching social interactions – Strengthens emotional, linguistic, and collaborative intelligence.

Combining immersive learning experiences, lifestyle brain care, and expanding your comfort zone provides a powerful formula for getting smarter.

How can I increase my IQ?

While IQ tests have limitations, research shows activities that can raise scores include:

  • Reading often, especially literary fiction and non-fiction.
  • Learning to play challenging instruments like the violin.
  • Taking courses to master complex subjects like computer programming or physics.
  • Doing physically and mentally challenging activities like rock climbing.
  • Learning strategic thinking skills through games like chess or Go.
  • Eliminating distractions and practicing intense focus via meditation.
  • Exercising creativity by trying artistic pursuits like painting, poetry writing, or photography.
  • Socializing with very articulate and intellectually engaged people.
  • Limiting passive entertainment like low-quality television and social media.

Dedicate time to immersive learning while avoiding mental atrophy and you can meaningfully raise your IQ over months and years.

Is intelligence fixed or changeable?

While genetics impact cognitive potential, research confirms overall intelligence is changeable and can be enhanced significantly through dedicated cognitive and lifestyle habits including:

  • Challenging your mind consistently with intellectually demanding activities.
  • Creating and mastering new skills to develop neural pathways.
  • Reading books and taking courses to build crystallized knowledge.
  • Aerobic exercise and mindfulness to maximize brain health and function.
  • Engaging social connections that sharpen critical thinking skills.
  • Games, apps and training to boost memory, focus and mental quickness.

With determination and perseverance, you can overcome innate tendencies and limitations to expand your mental capabilities, IQ and intellect. It simply requires regular short bursts of focused effort.

At what age is intelligence highest?

Research points to a few key periods where intelligence peaks:

  • Childhood – Raw processing speed and working memory peaks around age 12 before declining.
  • Early adulthood – Fluid intelligence like spatial abilities, pattern recognition, and abstract thinking peaks in your 20s.
  • Late adulthood – Crystallized intelligence amassed through knowledge and experience peaks in your 50s or 60s.

While cognitive faculties decline with age, engaging in new learning and mentally stimulating activities attenuates loss – especially for crystallized intelligence. An 80 year old can be sharper than a 20 year old lacking curiosity. Lifelong learning is key.

Can anyone become a genius?

While true genius – an IQ over 140 – is rare, nearly anyone can become exceptionally bright through dedicated practice and learning in:

  • Your strengths – Develop natural talents and gifts into deep specialized expertise.
  • Broad knowledge – Read voraciously, take courses and expose yourself to ideas spanning disciplines.
  • Memory – Use mnemonic techniques and spaced repetition to commit vast knowledge to memory.
  • Speed – Practice speed reading, mental math, and pattern recognition to sharpen processing velocity.
  • Effective learning – Master study techniques and meta-learning strategies for efficient knowledge acquisition.
  • Critical thinking – Strengthen logical reasoning, argumentation, synthesis, and problem solving.

With hard work, the right lifestyle habits, and commitment to continual growth, you can enter the realm of profoundly gifted – even if you weren’t born a natural genius.

Final Tips for Getting Smarter

Here are a few final simple habits to regularly practice to maximize your cognitive potential:

  • Wake up each day ready to learn. Maintain an open, curious mindset.
  • Identify your knowledge gaps. Be honest about weaknesses and seek to address them.
  • Question assumptions, think critically, and don’t take everything at face value.
  • Obsess over mastering key fundamentals before moving to more advanced material.
  • Focus intently on a single task at a time instead of multitasking.
  • Discuss ideas passionately but also be willing to change your mind based on new data.
  • Reflect on experiences; extract the key lessons both positive and negative.

You are never too old or young to get smarter! With consistency in both building knowledge and enhancing your approach to learning, your natural intellect can expand tremendously.


  • Gio Watts

    Gio Watts brings over 10 years of digital marketing experience to his role as marketing manager at Walletminded. In his current position, Gio oversees brand marketing, campaign management, and audience growth initiatives. Prior to joining Walletminded, Gio held marketing roles at several ecommerce and SaaS startups, most recently serving as senior marketing manager at CloudTable Inc. There, he specialized in paid social advertising and content marketing. Gio holds a bachelor’s degree in business marketing from the University of Oregon. He is a certified content marketing specialist and frequently guest lectures at his alma mater. When he's not devising omni-channel marketing campaigns, you can find Gio coaching youth basketball and indulging his passion for live music.

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