11 Daily Activities That Can Help Make You Smarter & Improve Brain Function

When it comes to self-improvement, most of us tend to focus on reaching career goals, eating healthier, or having more energy. However, maintaining the health of our brain is just as important, and we can incorporate certain activities into our day that can help make us smarter. Maintaining good cognitive health can have benefits that last well into our lifetime, and to help us reach our fullest potential, we need to make sure we're doing the right activities everyday that can help boost our intelligence.

"Try a new hobby or activity on a regular basis, as this stimulates new areas of the brain, and activates more areas than were previously being used," says psychologist Nikki Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC over email "Like anything else, if we do not use a skill we lose it."

There's no magic activity that can suddenly make you intelligent, but picking up healthy habits can help strengthen your brain and improve your cognition. The more you challenge yourself and keep your mind active, the better, and the results can spill into all other areas of your life. For more powerful brain power, try participating in these 11 daily activities that can help make you smarter.

1. Playing A Musical Instrument

Learning to play a musical instrument is one of the best things you can do for your brain. Multiple studies show that it can boost your memory, help you process language better, and even protect your brain from aging.

2. Exercising

Most people associate exercise with physical benefits, but working out is just as good for our brain as it is for our bodies. "Exercise has been shown to improve mental clarity, efficiency and cognitive functioning, which all help us think more clearly," says Christina G. Hibbert, Psy.D. over email. "This leads to increased learning, judgment, insight, and memory. Studies even show exercise is correlated with higher IQ scores."

3. Learning A Foreign Language

Even if it's just learning a few new words a day, try to pick up another language. A trove of studies have looked at people who are bilingual, and they have found that learning another language can help with problem solving skills, multitasking, prevention against dementia, perception, memory, and more.

4. Socializing

Spending time with your friends is not just fun — it's good for your brain. A study from the University of Michigan found that talking with people in a friendly way provides a short-term boost of executive functioning, which includes working memory, self-monitoring, and the ability to suppress external and internal distractions.

5. Coloring In An Adult Coloring Book

Adult coloring books have become all the rage recently, and for good reason. "As strange as this may sound, adult coloring books are very healthy for the brain," says Martinez. "They work on complex, frontal lobe processing through pattern design, balance and fine motor coordination."

6. Reading

Reading not only improves your general knowledge as well as your vocabulary, but it can improve your memory, your analytical thinking, and your writing skills, according to research from UC Berkeley. Whether you read the newspaper or enjoy a chick lit novel, read a few pages a day for some clear mental benefits.

7. Sleeping

"Sleep is key to helping our brains work properly, and when we begin to accumulate poor sleep, we will begin to feel it, not only in our physical and mental health, but in our cognitive functioning," says Hibbert. "Sleep deprivation is associated with poorer decision making, problem solving, emotional control, coping ability, and behavior."

8. Meditating

We all know that meditating is good for stress, but it also has cognitive benefits as well. A study from Harvard University found that people who meditate have an increased amount of gray matter in the insula and sensory regions, which enhances your senses, as well as in the frontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for working memory and executive decision making.

9. Writing By Hand

Writing is not only a healthy release, but it can help boost your brain — especially if you write by hand. Picking up a pen and paper can enhance neural activity and improve thinking and movement control, according to Psychology Today.

10. Playing Sports

Playing sports is more than just a physical activity. A study from The Journal of the American College of Sports found that athletes are better at processing fast information as well as making split-second decisions.

11. Playing Games

When it comes to brain-strengthening activities, board games, puzzles, riddles, video games, and similar activities take the cake. Playing games – even video games — can help increase your brain function, improve your problem solving skills, help you socially, improve your memory, and more, according to research from the journal American Psychologist.

When in doubt, pick up a new hobby and take care of yourself physically for optimal brain function.

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