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18 Habits That’ll Make You Smarter Each Day

In today’s busy world, it’s easy to feel burned out and like our brains are at capacity. Yet, learning more each day and becoming the best versions of ourselves is crucial for success in the long haul. 

Studies suggest that engaging in hobbies and creative activities can significantly improve cognitive functioning and mental health. 

Here are 18 simple habits that can keep you sharp and agile when incorporated into your routine. These practices may seem small, but they can work wonders for your cognitive health!

1. Expand Your Vocabulary Every Day

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Many of us stop looking for new words once we’re done with school, which means we don’t try to expand our vocabulary as adults. However, a recent study suggests that learning new words daily can significantly impact different parts of our brains. 

An extensive vocabulary is linked to being more intelligent and better at solving problems, starting in childhood and continuing into adulthood. Adding new words to our vocabulary improves our working memory and communication skills. This helps us explain things more clearly and grasp complicated ideas quickly, broadening our world perspectives. 

2. Teach What You Know

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Teaching is one of the most effective ways to enhance your understanding of a subject. When explaining a concept to someone else, you must break it down, simplify it, and find new ways to make it accessible. This is one of the steps of the famous Feynman’s technique.

Keep an eye out for ways to share your knowledge with others, whether by helping a friend with a problem, writing a blog post about your favorite hobby, or even discussing what you’ve learned with a family member. While it’s the best way to help someone grow, it will also strengthen your learning.

3. Read Fiction and Non-Fiction Books 

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Reading stimulates your mind, improves your vocabulary, and exposes you to new ideas. Mixing up your reading with both fiction and non-fiction genres greatly enhances your cognitive abilities, 

While non-fiction books allow you to learn about everything from history to science, fiction shows different ways of thinking and helps you understand other people’s feelings. 

A study reveals that reading has been shown to slow down cognitive decline in old age. It also exhibits a slower rate of decline in memory and other mental capacities.

4. Surround Yourself With Smart People

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You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, so choose your company wisely! Hang out with people who are more intelligent than you are. Talking with those who question your views and provoke your thoughts makes you think more critically and reflectively.

Seek opportunities to connect with curious, thoughtful, and motivated people. Their knowledge and insights will push you to grow and see the world in new ways.

5. Catch Some Z’s

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A good night’s sleep is a key to memory consolidation, problem-solving abilities, and creativity. During sleep, the brain goes through several cycles. Each stage, including deep REM sleep, is essential for processing the learning and experiences you had in the day, strengthening neural connections, and clearing out waste products.

Lack of sleep, however, can significantly impair judgment, mood, and the ability to learn and retain information. Prioritizing sleep is a simple yet powerful way to invest in your cognitive capabilities and overall well-being.

6. Play Brain Teasers

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Solving puzzles and brain teasers is another effective method of boosting cognitive functions. Studies have shown that regularly engaging in puzzles and crosswords leads to a sharper brain later in life. 

Activities like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and logic problems help the brain solve complex problems and improve critical thinking skills. Whether you opt for a jigsaw puzzle, chess, or brain teaser book, consistency is key. So, don’t be afraid to play around and give your mind a good challenge.

7. Learn a New Skill

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Learning a new skill can help you advance your career and/or makes life more fun and rewarding. Whether it’s painting, playing an instrument, or learning a new language, the process of learning something new engages multiple areas of your brain and helps create new neural pathways.

Besides the cognitive perks, learning new skills expands your social life and helps you connect with like-minded individuals. 

8. Exercise Regularly

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Moving your body maintains your physical health and benefits your brain. Regular exercise releases endorphins (happy hormones), which can reduce stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression.

Moreover, physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, delivering the oxygen and nutrients it needs to perform optimally. This improves overall mental alertness and energy levels and can enhance cognitive functions such as memory and attention. 

9. Give Yourself a Break

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Like a muscle or any other organ in the body, your brain needs rest to function at its best. When working on a task, it’s easy to get caught up in the flow and forget to take breaks. Regular pauses can help you stay more focused and productive in the long run.

Try the Pomodoro Technique: work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. After four cycles, take a longer break of 15-30 minutes. Step away from your desk during your breaks, stretch your body, and allow your mind to wander. You’ll come back feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the next challenge.

10. Generate 10 New Ideas Daily

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Make it a habit of creating ten new ideas daily to boost creativity and problem-solving. It is an excellent workout for your brain muscles and creates a big pool of ideas for all parts of life, from personal to work challenges. 

Start with a daily theme or problem and think of ten ways to solve it or create something new. Don’t worry if the ideas seem unrealistic; the aim is to get creative. You’ll be surprised that some ideas might turn into real projects or even new ventures. Keep a journal or file for your ideas and check them often to see their potential.

11. Try a Different Route

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Habits are great for feeling accomplished, but sometimes, they can make our brains a little lazy. When we take the same route to work or school every day, our minds go on autopilot, and we miss out on chances to engage with our surroundings.

Try taking a different route sometimes. Pay attention to the new sights, sounds, and smells around you. It helps stimulate your brain and make you more present in the moment. Plus, who knows what exciting discoveries you might make along the way!

12. Let Your Mind Recharge

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Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help you quiet your mind and improve your focus. While meditation has been known to reduce stress and anxiety, researchers have just discovered its astonishing effects on the brain. 

Studies suggest meditation can increase the hippocampus’s grey matter density, improve learning memory, and help regulate emotions. Sit a few minutes in silence daily, focus on your breath, and your brain will thank you!

13. Watch Filtered News

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Watching relevant, accurate, and positive news helps reduce stress and keeps us informed about important topics. However, information overload is overwhelming and can damage our mental health. 

To avoid this, pick reliable sources and use tools to filter news based on interests and quality to protect your mind from the negativity often seen in mainstream media. Doing this keeps you updated with important things and helps you have a healthier, more positive outlook on life.

14. Pen Down Your Thoughts

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Set aside a few minutes daily to jot down your thoughts, feelings, and observations. It is a powerful way to calm your thoughts and emotions. By keeping a journal, you’re creating a space to reflect on your experiences, explore new ideas, and gain insights into your mind. 

Journaling is impressive because it helps you set goals, track progress, and celebrate wins. It makes you feel like you’re moving forward and achieving something great, which benefits your overall well-being. 

15. Eat Brain Healthy Foods

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Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can provide the energy and nutrients your brain needs to function at its best. Foods high in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins can help enhance cognitive function, improve memory, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Make it a habit to incorporate various nutrient-dense foods into every meal. Planning your meals ahead of time can help ensure that you’re making healthy choices throughout the day. Also, staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water can boost your concentration and keep your mind alert.

16. Listen Actively

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Listening is a skill that we often don’t think about, but it’s essential for effective communication and learning. When you practice active listening, you’re fully present and engaged in the conversation, absorbing information and seeking to understand the other person’s perspective.

Next time you talk to someone, try to focus on what they are saying without interrupting or planning your response. Ask clarifying questions, paraphrase what you’ve heard, and show genuine interest in the topic. This will help you build stronger relationships and learn more from the people around you.

17. Practice Gratitude

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Gratitude is a powerful emotion that can deeply impact our mental well-being. By focusing on what we are thankful for, we train our brains to look for the positive in every situation.

Make it a habit to start or end each day by listing three things you’re grateful for. They can be big or small, from a delicious meal to a kind word from a stranger. Over time, this practice can help shift your mindset towards greater positivity and resilience, boosting mental health and cognitive abilities.

18. Play Video Games

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Contrary to popular belief, video games are a fun way to stimulate your brain and enhance cognitive functions (when limits are set in place).

Video games, particularly those that require strategic thinking, problem-solving, and quick reflexes, can improve attention, spatial awareness, and decision-making skills. They also offer an interactive environment for learning and practicing new languages, history, or even programming through gamified education.

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