Learn how to increase your intelligence gradually. These 11 things-to-do are a good start toward becoming smarter and more successful.
By Miles Hanson
Most of us want to be more intelligent.
We want to know more.
We want to be able to carry on intelligent conversations with others.
We want to be able to solve problems quickly and easily.
It’s just in our nature.
A lot of people would agree that being more intelligent leads to a better life.
11 Ways to Increase Your Intelligence
So, let’s take a look at things you can do daily to gradually increase your intelligence.
1. Surround Yourself with Great Minds
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt
Have you ever noticed that when you make a new friend, within a few weeks of hanging out with them, you tend to adopt a lot of their sayings, mannerisms, and ways of thinking?
This is due to osmosis, the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas and knowledge.
When you surround yourself with small-minded people, you are essentially shrinking your mind.
But you can increase your intelligence by hanging out with people smarter than yourself.
Your vocabulary, mindset, and overall knowledge are directly correlated with your environment; this includes people you consistently interact with.
It’s been said that “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” (1)
When you have intelligent people in your environment, you must work to stretch your intellectual comfort zone.
2. Learn to Listen
Listening is a skill you can use to increase your intelligence, but unfortunately it isn’t taught in school.
We listen so much yet we’ve never learned how to do it effectively.
We spend roughly 60% of our communication time listening, but retain only about 25% of what we hear.
For example, how many times have you forgotten someone’s name, or said you were “bad with names” in order to justify not recalling it.
Here are steps you can take to increase your intelligence by becoming a better listener: (2)
- Be silent for a least five minutes a day. Take a break from the constant noise around you and reset and recalibrate your ears and mind. This will heighten your ability to really hear people when they talk to you.
- Be conscious of the sound that surrounds you. So many of us are bombarded by noise pollution. Practice picking out individual sounds to improve your ability to focus.
- Acknowledge. Show your conversation partner that you are listening and understand what she is saying. This active listening helps you retain information.
- Ask. If you don’t understand something, don’t nod your head pretending you understand what’s being said. Ask for an explanation or a repeat until both of you are on the same page.
- Find enjoyment in the mundane. Take a moment to appreciate everyday sensations like the sounds of rain, the smell of fresh-brewed coffee, and so on.
3. Ask More Questions
When we are children, we are curious about the world around us.
Life is all new and the more we know, the better.
In growing up, we somehow tend to lose our curiosity and stop asking many questions.
Maybe we’re embarrassed to admit to our peers that we don’t know something we think is obvious to them.
If you live life like this, you’ll never learn.
You will stagnate and limit your growth.
Ask. Ask. Ask. You can never ask too many questions.
4. Think Differently
Intelligence has roots in creativity and imagination.
It can grow by questioning the status quo and discovering your own ideas and thoughts.
Realize that the world is largely populated, and even run, by people no smarter than you.
Learn more —
How To Be More Creative: 10 Surprising Ways
Don’t accept ideas at face value, don’t think what everyone else thinks just because “that’s the way it is.”
There is a lot we don’t know.
Prove important concepts to yourself and, if you think something is amiss or could be improved, act on it.
Drum up the courage to let your imagination soar and think for yourself.
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5. Do the Random Word Exercise
Just like a muscle, you must train your brain beyond its current capabilities in order to promote its growth.
Here’s a fun mental exercise that you can do in just a few minutes per day.
Every time you brush your teeth, think of random words.
Start with everyday items like mirror, hair, toothbrush, bathroom, and house.
Work your way up to a list of completely unrelated random words, such as ball, plant, moon, candle, tire, and seashell.
Now look for connections between items on your list.
For example, here’s a connection you could make between seashell and moon:
Seashells are found on a beach and waves on the beach are affected by the gravitational pull of the moon.
You’ll notice patterns in your thinking, but your goal should be to break those patterns as much as possible.
As you dig deeper for more words, you’ll begin to think of words that are truly unrelated.
This is when you know you are making real progress.
Now you are accessing different neural pathways in your brain, instead of ones you were in the habit of using.
You are literally making your brain work harder.
At first, this will be frustrating and seem pointless.
Stick with it for a few days though and you should start to notice a change in your thinking.
Make this a habit and it will help increase your creativity, intelligence, and ability to connect the unconnected (innovation).
6. Brush Your Teeth with the Other Hand
This tip for increasing intelligence is simple, but not easy.
It has been proven that using your non-dominant side (hand, arm, eye) increases neural activity, growth, and capacity.
As with the random word exercise above, this technique activates parts of your brain that are not used as often.
As teeth brushing gets easier, start using your non-dominant side for other things.
Try it with eating, swinging a tennis racquet (or another sports activity), or mousing while using your computer.
7. Fuel Your Brain
To set the stage for increased intelligence, you must give your brain high performance fuel.
Consider these facts:
- Your brain uses up to 20% of your body’s energy.
- Your brain is about 75% water and its dry weight is 60% fat.
- It contains roughly 100 billion neurons and is the body’s major control center.
Simply put, the brain needs a lot of high-quality nutrients to run well.
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To help boost intelligence, feed your brain with:
- Healthy fats such as avocado, nuts, seeds, walnuts, coconut, coconut oil, and omega-3 fatty acids from fresh, wild-caught salmon.
- Nutrient-rich, green leafy vegetables such as spinach, arugula, collards, swiss chard, kale, cabbage, and broccoli.
- Hydrating foods (high water content) like most fruit. Berries have been shown to be especially beneficial.
- And drink lots and lots of clean water!
8. Expand Your Vocabulary
Language is one of the most powerful functions of the brain.
Strive to learn, and use, new words all the time.
This will help boost your brain’s processing speed and ability to think creatively.
One of the most effective ways to learn words is to read (which I’ll cover shortly).
Every time you see or hear a word you don’t know, look it up.
Memorize the definition and test yourself to commit it to memory.
As you add words to your vocabulary, use them in conversation or writing.
At the same time, remove filler words (um, uh, like) that you currently use in between spoken thoughts.
These words serve no productive purpose and prevent you from expressing yourself better and increasing your intelligence.
9. Get Physical Exercise
A good rule of thumb for increasing intelligence is to break a sweat every single day of your life.
It doesn’t matter how you do it, but perspiration should be on your to-do list every day.
Studies have shown that exercise increases activity throughout the brain.
Also, understand that intelligence is affected by everything you do.
Activity that primarily involves the body impacts the brain, and the reverse is true as well.
For instance, the brain chemical serotonin is released during exercise and helps to improve mood, energy, sleep, digestion, and more.
In a biofeedback loop, these improvements then boost brain functions.
Exercise is essentially a miracle drug for your mental and physical health.
So go fill your prescription.
In the same way that building a muscle requires both exercise and rest, so it is with building intelligence.
Most of us have a constant influx of chaotic thoughts racing through our heads all the time.
Letting these thoughts dissipate through meditation allows the mind to rest.
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If you are new to meditating, the best way to start is to simply sit comfortably with your eyes closed and spine aligned.
Focus on your breathing.
As soon as your mind starts to wander and a thought intrudes, acknowledge your thought, let it go (without criticism), and come back to your breathing.
Repeat this process.
11. Read Every Day
If you want to be more intelligent, read every day.
Warren Buffett attributes his astonishing success to reading.
He dedicates 80% of his day to it.
Roughly 72% of American adults read a book in 2015. (3)
Most people read an average of about two books per year.
This is most likely why they are considered “average” people.
If you want to be a person of above average intelligence, you must read. A lot.
Based on average book length and reading speeds, you can read 45 minutes per day and finish a book a week.
That’s 52 books a year.
Think about how different your mind might be after reading 52 books.
Be like Warren Buffett and turn a reading habit into greater intelligence and success.
How to Increase Intelligence: The Bottom Line
If you are committed to increasing your intelligence, you need to make practices like these a consistent part of your daily life.
Figure out how to fit them into your schedule, and start. The sooner you do, the smarter you will be.
- Surround yourself with great minds
- Learn to listen
- Ask more questions
- Think differently
- Use the random word exercise
- Use your non-dominant hand
- Fuel your brain
- Expand your vocabulary
- Get physical exercise
- Read every day
About the author
Miles Hanson is a writer, entrepreneur, and creator of Hustle Healthy, a resource for high-performance entrepreneurs who want to achieve elite health, focus, and fitness. After suffering from severe brain fog and other health ailments for years, Miles became obsessed with not only healing but achieving an elite state of mental and physical health. Sign up for his free course, Brain Bright.