While you can’t work your brain like a muscle, there are various ways you can sharpen and hone it to its full potential.
Understanding fluid and crystallized intelligence
Many experts classify our general intelligence into two main types — fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence.
Fluid intelligence is the part involved in comprehension, reasoning, and problem-solving aspects of our intellect. Crystallized intelligence, on the other hand, is the realm of memory recall of knowledge and past experiences.
Both are interrelated.
It has long been thought that fluid intelligence peaks around the age of 30 and then gradually decreases over time but newer research seems to point to the fact that certain aspects of fluid intelligence actually peak at around the age of 40. It may also be possible to improve fluid intelligence and delay its decline through working your brain.
Crystallized intelligence, on the other hand, seems to gradually increase over time, and then begin to decline at around the age of 60.
Basically, the problem-solving part of the brain is at its best when you are young but your memory recall (crystallized) is less effective then. This reverses over time as you age and gain more education and experience.
Here are 11 mental exercises to keep your brain sharp.
- You are the company you keep
“Your network is your net worth,” as the saying goes. According to the famous motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
Social psychologist Dr. David McClelland of Harvard once said your closest friends and peers may actually determine as much as 95% of your success or failure in life.
It is no coincidence that high achieving people tend to associate with one another as these peer groups tend to have similar interests and like to discuss these topics freely with those of a similar mindset.
- Get enough shut-eye
Sleep is a very important factor when keeping your mind (and body) in tip-top shape. The human brain requires a large amount of energy to function. If you are constantly exhausted, your mind won’t be able to retain knowledge and learn.
Some studies also show that a persistent lack of sleep can reduce your IQ.
- Read, read, read!
Reading exposes you to new ideas and can influence and improve your mind. Reading improves your general knowledge, making you more capable of holding interesting conversations and relating different concepts. Reading expands your communication skills and develops your analytical skills and also exposes you to new ideas, and allows you to learn new skills.
Highly successful people read, on average, one book a week.
- Eat the right food
Food is the fuel for your body, and more importantly, for your brain. What you stuff down your throat can influence your brain function.
Getting a highly nutritious diet has also been shown to have an effect on keeping your mind sharp. Walnuts, for example, are thought by some to be a fantastic source of brain food.
Fish like tuna, mackerel, and salmon that are rich in fatty acids have been proven to help neurons function.
- Play games!
Believe it or not, playing games is another powerful way to train your brain. Constantly facing challenges could help your brain go from strength to strength.
Various studies have shown that playing games can boost brain connectivity and memory.
The right kinds of computer games could also boost your IQ!
- Exercise body and mind
Another great way to keep your brain on top form is to get plenty of exercise. Any efforts you make to train your brain will be thwarted if you don’t keep your body healthy too!
Many studies have shown an apparent link between regular exercise and improved memory function, cognitive performance. Other studies have also shown that exercise is a great way to reduce depression and anxiety.
- Try and err
When learning something new, try to do it over and over again every day. New experiences force your brain to grow new pathways that will help you perform the new task faster and faster.
Each and every experience strengthens the neural pathways and makes a task that much easier until it becomes second nature. Just like learning to walk.
- Challenge yourself
Easy doesn’t help improve fluid intelligence. Once knowledge or skill is in your pocket, you certainly benefit from the increase in crystallized intelligence.
Once you achieve a level of comfort, your brain no longer has to work as hard, and all that new mental muscle gained starts to atrophy.
At work. At home. Anywhere. Just keep challenging yourself.
The more you learn, the more likely you will be able to associate “old” knowledge to new things.
- Try art
Activities like drawing, painting, and composing music teach the brain to merge the senses and pay close attention to details. Over time, this skill spills out to every activity of your life.
- Question everything
Never take anything at face value. Be ready to question facts, as it is not always solid. This is a skill that has brought about much of the innovation and technology that we enjoy today.
- Stimulate creativity
Listening to classical music such as Mozart, talking with different people, or simply admiring nature and absorbing the surroundings can stimulate the mind.
Take in all the sounds, sights, and smells that you meet along the way. The smell of flowers and views of the stream nearby are all little details that the brain records and indexes.