This is a guest post by Jacob E. Dawson.
Modern society is defined by superficiality.
Take a look at the magazines that adorn the racks of your local supermarket; the advertising billboards that clutter our highways; the 5-star faces beaming out from the countless movie posters we see every single day.
This world was made for good-looking people, right? Well, not exactly.
While a pretty face might open a few doors, we can be sure that the people that designed the buildings didn’t get to that position merely on the strength of their biometric ratios. No – it took intelligence to build them, and it’s this creativity and vision that has built most of the things that make this world work.
Very few fields will reward you for increasing your good looks, but you can bet that almost all of them will reward you (handsomely!) for increasing your intelligence, and that’s what we’re going to do today – look at 10 proven methods you can use to improve your IQ.
1. Know You Actually Can Increase Your Intelligence
There are two different types of general intelligence: Crystallized Intelligence (Gc; the ability to use the skills and experience stored in long-term memory) and Fluid Intelligence (Gf; the ability to think logically, analyze situations and solve novel problems).
The easiest way to train your brain and increase your intelligence is to first understand that it can be done; you can improve it and retain those gains. That’s exciting given that – until recently – it was thought that intelligence was 100% genetically-based and fixed throughout a person’s lifetime.
2. Test Your IQ
Knowing that you can increase your intelligence is just the beginning. If you don’t know what your current IQ is, then you won’t be able to measure gains or set a measurable goal to increase it.
There are numerous online platforms that enable you to test your IQ, and by undertaking several of them using different scales (such as the Stanford-Binet, Wechsler and Cattell) you’ll soon be able to gather a fair assessment of where your current IQ lies, giving you a benchmark to work on. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t hit Genius level on the first go – that just means there’s plenty of room for improvement.
3. Meditate for Focus and Attention
Meditation offers a whole host of benefits including the lowering of stress-levels, increased relaxation and a strengthened immune system. Today, however, we are most concerned with meditation’s ability to increase focus and attention spans. Just as working memory is crucial in utilizing intelligence, improvements in selective attention can increase intelligence, meaning that meditation practice will actually make you smarter!
4. Combine Physical Exercise with Cognitive Exercise
Just like meditation, not only is exercise beneficial for a whole range of health reasons; it has been shown to increase cognitive performance and brain volume. Exercise also promotes blood flow and oxygen levels in crucial parts of the brain necessary for optimum cognitive performance, and some studies (specifically Fabre & colleagues, 1999) suggest that physical exercise in combination with cognitive exercise is additive – providing larger gains than conducting either one in isolation.
5. Learn to Speed Read
While most guides on how to increase your intelligence correctly suggest that both reading and writing are proven ways to exercise your mind and provide measurable gains, I’d like to go a step further. Did you know that most people read at an average rate of 250 words per minute? Even more surprising is the fact that we hit this top-speed during our high-school years and for the most part never improve it.
Fact: if you train yourself to speed read, you should experience a minimum gain of 100% within 2 months. With long-term practice, reading speeds of 1000wpm with comprehension of around 70% is possible – imagine the improvement in your knowledge base, understanding of writing styles and Gc that can be gained with just a couple months of practice!
6. Learn How to Remember
Given that crystallized intelligence is so reliant upon harnessing memories, it follows that learning efficient memorization techniques is one of the best ways to increase it. Yet, for the most part, we take the mind’s ability to retain information for granted, without pursuing methods to increase this ability. Make no mistake – learning Mnemonic techniques like the Journey Method, The Roman Room Technique and the Major System will enable you to use the information you’ve gathered from speed-reading and move it into your long-term memory for high-quality recall.
7. Play Dual N-Back Games
Dual N-Back tasks have been proven to increase working memory and fluid intelligence. By practicing a dual n-back test for just 20 minutes per day, you can measurably improve your Gf and retain those gains over the long-term. Not bad for a game that you can play on a smart-phone!
8. Break out of Your Routines!
Challenging the mind to work outside of its comfort zone can make you smarter (as well as make your life more interesting). By challenging yourself in unique ways, you force the mind to make new connections, which can increase creativity as well. The good news is that you can break out of your routine at virtually any point throughout the day – try brushing your teeth with the other hand, swapping the hands you use to hold your knife and fork, choose a completely different way to travel to work, or walk (carefully!) around your house with your eyes closed. It may seem simple, but you are improving your intelligence with every step!
9. Learn a New Language
It’s important to know that the cognitive gains from learning a new language can be achieved no matter what age you are. While it may feel harder to learn a new language at an older age, and certainly appears to be easier for children, it’s never too late to start. Not only will you be rewarded with broadened horizons, but you’ll benefit from increased mental capacity, creative ability, the ability to respond to quick shifts in environment, and even a heightened resistance to dementia. With so many free tools for language learning available on the internet, there’s no better time to start than now!
10. Master a Skill then Move On
You may have heard of a study that involved people playing the game ‘Tetris’. While the study found that brain activity, cortex size and glucose consumption rose as the players increased their skill with the game, the most interesting point is what happened afterwards – once the players reach a level of ‘mastery’, the brain activity, size and glucose consumption all fell back to pre-test levels. Here’s the exciting part – the player’s skill didn’t decrease – the brain had mastered the skill, became more efficient and was ready to reallocate resources to a new skill…
There you have it – a guide to improving your intelligence that you can work on today! Have you tested your IQ before? What do you think about standard definitions of intelligence? What are some other techniques that you could suggest? Did you count the list to make sure there were really 10 points? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section; we’d love to hear from you!