10 Quick, Easy Ways To Get Smarter Without Spending Any Money At All

You know the saying "you can't teach an old dog new tricks?" Well, I call a firm BS on that. You are never, ever too old to learn, and there are certain simple, quick things you can do daily to make yourself smarter. Has there ever been something you've always wanted to learn, like a new language, or mastery of a new topic? Well the good news is, you can.

Research published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences says that people are able to learn well into their 80s — as in, take in, process, and correctly use new information — so there is no excuse to assume that just because you've finished with school, you're all done using your brain. It's also important for your mental health to keep your brain active, and there's no better way to do that than using it to learn.

I know at the end of the work day, there isn't a whole lot of time left for personal mental enrichment. Using your free time (during a commute or waiting for appointments) for learning will make you feel like you're using your free time well, while also sharpening your mind. Thanks, largely, to the Internet, there are all kinds of apps and programs out there to help you get smarter. With the click of a button you can learn trivia, the latest news, and even another language. They're quick, easy and best of all, free, and fit seamlessly into your already jam-packed life.

1. Eat Some Brain Food

You’ve probably heard the term “brain food” since you were little (“Eat your salmon! It’s brain food!”), but it turns out, it’s actually a real thing, according to CNN. Certain foods like salmon, blueberries, and avocados affect the way you think, as well as your mental productivity.

2. Listen To Something Informative

Podcasts are quite possibly the easiest, most mindless way to learn something you — you literally don’t have to do anything but listen. Instead of listening to the new Janet Jackson album (which is amazing, by the way) while you get ready in the morning, throw on one of these 17 Podcasts That Will Make You Smarter

3. Read “Smart People” Books

I’m embarrassed to admit that I skipped a lot of required reading in high school, so I've spent the last few years going back and re-reading a lot of the classics (OK, reading them for the first time). Check out these 20 books every smart person should read, and challenge yourself to get through the whole list. Alternate a classic with a non-classic

4. Stay Up To Date On The News

Staying up to date with what's going on in the world has never been easier; in 2015, there is no excuse for being uninformed. Daily emails like "The Skimm" and The New York Times“Morning Briefing” go straight to your inbox (for zero charge) and give you a quick roundup of all the most important news of the day.

5. Learn A Language

Duolingo offers free lessons in English, French, German, Portugese, Spanish and Italian, among others. It lets you pick the speed at which you’d like to learn the language (anywhere from “casual” to “insane”) and assigns you exercises every day.

6. Learn To Code

With Code Academy, you can learn the basics of HTML and CSS coding for free. The program is really straight forward, and you can take it at your own pace. I’ve been working on lesson one for the last three weeks, but it still feels like I’m making progress.

7. Flex Your Brain Muscles

Try a brain-training game, like Lumosity, to test different skills and keep yourself sharp. The app will tell you where you need to focus (memory, attention, speed, flexibility or problem solving) and assign you games to help you improve.

8. Quiz Yourself

When I was in college, I used to use Sporcle.com, a popular quiz website, to study for geography tests (and to test my knowledge about the cast of Friends). Some of the quizzes, like “Countries of the World” and “US Vice Presidents” will test your knowledge and keep you fresh. You’ll probably learn something, too.

9. Build Your Vocabulary

Vocabulary Builder teaches you new words, and challenges you to learn how to use them in place of simpler ones. Just because the SATs are over, it doesn't mean you need to stop learning.

10. Have An Actual, Intelligent Conversation

Creative agency Degree180 founder Candace Owens always said in a blog post for the site, “I never want to be the smartest person in the room, because otherwise I’m not learning from the people around me.” Commit yourself to talking to people who can teach you something, and having conversations that will make you smarter.

Being "smart" is relative and defined differently by many different people, but testing your mind and feeling challenged are important parts of living your best life, so why not try out one of these tips?

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