Advertising
Advertising

10 Habits That Make You Smarter Day By Day

10 Habits That Make You Smarter Day By Day

Growing up, I had a coach who would always say, “Today is a great day to excel.” It’s something that’s stuck with me throughout my life: the knowledge that every day you’re given a chance to improve on the person you were the day before.

It’s also a great reminder that you’ll never get this exact moment back, so you should use every second to your advantage. Knowing this, it’s important to practice mindfulness every day, and to get into the habit of continuously improving your life in some way or another.

You can make the most of each day by:

1. Asking questions and following up on them

As kids, we harbor a natural curiosity about the world around us. We probably drove our parents nuts asking so many questions, but it was because we genuinely had to know why the sky is blue, or why dogs bark and cats meow. As we grow older, we get busy living life and, unfortunately, lose interest in discovering information about our world.

We should keep our imagination alive by actively asking questions and seeking out the answers on a daily basis. Keep a journal throughout the day of ideas that pop into your head that you don’t have time to think about at work.

Instead of lazing around on the couch for an hour when you get home, use this time to find the answers to the questions you had throughout the day. Even if the knowledge you gain isn’t directly applicable to your job, digging deeper into a seemingly minuscule interest could lead to the discovery of a life-long hobby.

2. Reading something new

Because of smartphones, we literally have the ability to read every piece of literature that has ever been penned by man in the palm of our hands. Don’t spend all day scrolling through Facebook for cat pictures.

Advertising

Check out apps like Flipboard and Longform, which collect stories from around the globe that you can tailor to your interests. Don’t just read the same old news sites. Instead, read an opinion article that directly jibes with your own perspective.

Reading an article you disagree with can potentially expand your mind, and help you come to a realization that changes your life. Even spending time reading for pleasure will keep your mind active and moving forward.

3. Sharing new knowledge

Learning something new is important, but sharing that knowledge makes what you’ve learned actionable and meaningful. Just like we have the ability to take in knowledge easily through the use of smart phones and the Internet, we also have the ability to share this information with our friends, family, and even complete strangers around the globe.

Use your Facebook page to share the interesting story you just read, or use an interesting photo gallery as a springboard to a fictional piece of literature. If you find something that interests you, share it with the world.

You might end up establishing new connections that could last a lifetime.

4. Applying new knowledge

There really is no point in learning something if it doesn’t inspire you to improve. Think of reading an advice column: If you don’t actually take the advice, you really just wasted the time it took to read the article in the first place.

If you take the time to learn something, you should take the extra step to learn how to use that information. If you play guitar and read an article about music theory, pick up your guitar and put your new-found knowledge into practice.

Advertising

You never know when you’re headed toward a breakthrough unless you take action to get there. Before you set out to read or learn to do something, ask yourself: How will I use this new knowledge?

Once you have a goal for learning, you’ll be much more motivated to learn in the first place.

5. Seeking out interesting people

Social media sites like Twitter have made communicating with interesting people incredibly easy. If you’ve ever spent time watching videos on TED, you know there are people out there who have incredible ideas and visions for our world.

These people are, well, people just like you. Reach out to the people who have inspired you.

They might be busy and may or may not respond, but if they do it could lead to a mind-expanding dialogue with limitless possibilities.

6. Doing something that scares you

When I started writing for all the Internet to see a few months ago, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be good enough, or my ideas would come off as pedantic and idiotic. After penning about 40 articles for Lifehack, I’ve become absolutely overwhelmed by the positive responses many of them have received.

If you’ve just learned a new song on guitar, play it for a group of friends. Then play it for a group of your peers. Then play it in front of a crowd. As you push the boundaries of your comfort zone, you’ll find it expanding each time you stretch it.

Advertising

Learn to be okay with being nervous and afraid; if everything was easy to do, nothing would be worth the effort.

7. Eating healthy

In school, our teachers would always advise us to eat well the night before and morning of a big test. They wanted to make sure you were fresh and had the stamina needed to work for hours on end without a break.

Starting your day with a healthy breakfast will keep you energized and willing to go the extra mile in everything you do. If you feel like garbage, you’re not going to want to push yourself to excel.

To keep things interesting, you can always find healthy eating recipes on Pinterest. Make sure your diet is full of fruits, vegetables and various proteins so you can hit the ground running each and every day.

8. Playing games instead of watching TV

Doing crossword puzzles, playing video games, or even watching Jeopardy is much more beneficial than vegging out and watching reruns of your favorite sitcom. Your mind should always be working, even during leisure activities.

Working on puzzles or playing games increases your logical thought and problem solving processes, which can positively affect all other aspects of your life.

Even time honored games like Tetris prove to be both fun and beneficial to your brain. And, even though your brain is working throughout these activities, you’ll be relieving the stress that your mind accumulated throughout the workday.

Advertising

9. Exercising

Along with eating healthy, keeping your body healthy is of utmost importance if you want to improve your overall well-being. Again, you won’t really be apt to push yourself mentally if your body is physically sore.

Take the time to get up and move, even if you only have a short period of time each day to do it in. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or park at the end of the parking lot at work.

As with everything else, you need to make every second of your day count in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

10. Setting aside quiet time

Your brain, and your body, need time to recharge every day. Of course, you should aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night, but in addition to that, you should spend some time to yourself, with no external stimuli around to bother you.

Take 10 minutes before bed or after waking up to meditate and let your mind relax. Try not to think of any of the stressful situations in your life, and just be.

And you don’t have to be a seasoned meditation expert, either. Psychology Today makes it clear that meditation really is for everyone.

Doing this before bed will make falling asleep much easier, and doing it in the morning will allow you to face the day without anxiety. And, if you can get some quiet time in during your lunch break, you’ll be energized and ready to work when everyone else has hit the two o’clock slump.

Featured photo credit: Flickrr via farm5.staticflickr.com

More by this author

7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience 20 Little Signs You’ve Found The One 8 Signs of a Man Who Will Never Ever Stop Loving You 8 Things To Remember When Dating Someone With A Guarded Heart 14 Signs You’re Not Drinking Enough Water

Trending in Communication

1 How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward 2 What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships 3 How To Stop Negative Thoughts from Killing Your Confidence 4 This 4-Year Old Girl’s Explanation On the Problem with New Year’s Resolutions Is Everything You Need 5 What You Really Need to Feel Secure in a Relationship

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

Advertising

Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Advertising

1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

Advertising

5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

Advertising

If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

More Resources About Strengthening Communication Skills

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next