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Published on April 30, 2018

10 Brain Training Hacks to Increase Your IQ, Focus and Creativity

10 Brain Training Hacks to Increase Your IQ, Focus and Creativity

Becoming smarter is what a lot of people look for. While joining brain training programmes is an option to increase your IQ, focus and creativity, it can be quite expensive. Luckily there are plenty of free brain training hacks you can learn to make your brain smarter.

In this article, I’m going to introduce to you 10 free brain training hacks that will boost your brain performance and make you smarter.

The importance of brain training

The fundamental building block in the brain is the neuron. By learning ways to enhance the building block, we open a new frontier for understanding the power of our brain. Author of Brain Building: Exercising Yourself Smarter by Marilyn vos Savant remarked,

“Building your brain power will open a new frontier beyond which lies an understanding that seems nearly incalculable.”

So, what’s the point?

We can improve our brain power and intelligence through certain brain training exercises.

You might be wondering:

In our busy life, how can I find time to do this?

The answer is simple and it’s not that difficult.

Brain training is simply cognitive training using exercises to improve your brain power. By improving your brain power, you will find that your IQ, focus, and creative skills will increase as well.

Let’s take a look at how you can improve your brain power through brain training.

Brain training hacks that will make you smarter

Here are 10 brain training hacks you can use now to make you smarter tomorrow:

Hack #1. Learn by teaching

In Mindhacker, Ron and Marty Hale-Evans argue that we should learn by teaching.

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“Before you can teach an idea, you must understand it. Therefore, teaching situations can be proving grounds for your own knowledge. Accelerate your learning of a subject by agreeing to teach it.” – Ron and Marty Hale-Evans

How to make this work:

  1. Dive deep into a concept by breaking it apart (analysis) and putting it back together (synthesis).
  2. Find a way to teach the content. If you have the appropriate education, try teaching an online course. If not, try teaching a new idea through places such as Udemy.
  3. Use innovative systems thinking tools to conduct analysis and synthesis and to teach your course. Read my other article to find out how you can explain ideas clearer to others: How to Explain Things Better and Make Others Understand Your Ideas Easily

Hack #2. Learn by writing

One of my favorite methods for learning and increasing intelligence is writing. By writing or blogging on a new topic, I force myself to break apart concepts. I then piece them back together by writing about them.

How to make this work:

  1. Start writing for a blog (i.e. Lifehack.org) or start your own. A great place to start writing is on Medium.com.
  2. Dive deep into a concept by breaking it apart (analysis) and putting it back together (synthesis).
  3. Write about the content you are learning and pay close attention to the feedback you receive once published.

Hack #3. Physical exercise

Physical exercise will not only improve your body, but it will also improve your brain power. Neurogenesis is the birth of new neurons in our brain. Exercise increases the levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which supports neurogenesis.

How to make this work:

  1. Start an exercise routine. Read my article This 24 Hour Workout Will Leave You Thinking, Looking And Feeling So Good for more ideas on how to start one.
  2. Change your diet. Eliminate refined sugars and start taking vitamins to improve the functioning of your brain.

Hack #4. Listen to audiobooks

My favorite hack to use along with physical exercise is audiobooks. I am always plugged into an audiobook. While exercising, driving, cutting my grass, chores, and just about any other activity.

How to make this work:

  1. Purchase wireless running headphones.
  2. Sign up for a free app connected to your local library e.g. OverDrive. Checkout audiobooks through this free app.
  3. Purchase audiobooks at a discount through Audible.com. If you are unable to find your audiobook free through OverDrive, purchase the books here.
  4. Download the app (or a similar app) Natural Reader, which is a free text to speech online app allowing you to convert text to audio. Essentially, you can convert an online article, a pdf, a word document, and similar files to an audio.
  5. Step #5. After you have listened to an audiobook for a while, try bumping up the speed of the book.

Hack #5. Read smarter

Start reading books faster and smarter. There are certain ways you should read a book. Some books should be read faster than others.

How to make this work:

  1. Skim the book first. Start with the title page, the inside of the cover, the table of contents, then the back of the book.
  2. Identify the author’s main theme (and main points within the book). Ask yourself the question “why” throughout the book. For example, “Why is the author arguing this point?”.
  3. Throughout the book and at the conclusion of the book, ask yourself three questions:
    – What? What happened in the book?
    – So What? What was the key takeaway?
    – Now What? What can you do with this new information?

Hack #6. Reason backward

Maurice Ashley, Chess Grandmaster, discussed the importance of retrograde analysis or reasoning backward in the following Ted Talk:

Let’s look at an example of reasoning backward.

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Read the following sentence:

After reading this sentence, you will realize that the the brain doesn’t recognize a second ‘the’.

Now read the sentence again. Did you notice that you missed the second ‘the’?

Our mind is logical and proceeds forward, so we don’t see the second ‘the’; however, if we read the sentence backwards we will always catch it.

“What is out of the common is usually a guide rather than a hindrance. In solving a problem of this sort, the grand thing is to be able to reason backward.” – Sherlock Homes, A Study in Scarlet

Hack #7. Quick and easy math tricks

Let’s examine some quick and easy math hacks that should be (but are not) taught in school.

Easily multiply any two-digit number by eleven:

32 x 11

Simply add the first two digits: 3 + 2 = 5

Place the 5 between the 3 and the 2 and you have your answer: 352

32 x 11 = 352

ii. Easily add two digit numbers:

84 + 57

Add 84 + 50 = 134

Then add 134 + 7 = 141

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84 + 57 = 141

iii. Easily subtract three digit numbers:

645 – 372

Take 645 – 400 = 245

Then add 28 (or 20 then add 8) as 400 – 372 = 28

245 + 20 = 265 + 8 = 273

645 – 372 = 273

iv. Multiplication guestimation

Another powerful trick is multiplication guesstimation.

88 x 54 is approximately 90 x 50 = 4500

This is much easier to multiple as 9 x 5 = 45

The correct answer is: 88 x 54 = 4752

For more math tricks like this, I recommend the book Secrets of Mental Math by Arthur Benjamin and Michael Shermer.

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Hack #8. Think – Try – Learn

    In Mindhacker, Ron and Marty Hale-Evans discuss a powerful tactic called Think – Try – Learn.

    • Think: Theorize, Predict, Plan
    • Try: Test, Observe, Record, Play
    • Learn: Analyze, Define Meaning, Change, Grow

    The following is an example of this method from Alphapunk.com:

      Hack #9. Brain training apps

      Elevate

      and Lumosity are brain training programs designed to improve our focus, speaking ability, processing speed, memory, math skills, and much more.

      Both programs come packed with more than 40 games and puzzles designed to improve our critical thinking and cognitive skills.

      A comparison of the two apps can be found here:[1]

      Elevate

      • Pros: Personal tracking, has the feel of a mobile game, available on iOS and Android, and app of the year for 2014
      • Cons: Poor graphics and only comes in English

      Lumosity

      • Pros: Fun and good memory improvement games, strong brand recognition, progress tracking, available on ios, android and pc, and used in over 180 countries
      • Cons: Expensive, repetitive, and have issues with iOS/Android app synch with desktop

      Hack #10. Learn a new language

        Learning a new language is one of the most powerful ways to improve your intelligence and cognitive capacity.

        I recently came across a fantastic new app called Chineasy Cards. This program makes learning Chinese both fun and aesthetically pleasing. The design principles are stronger than any other language app I have previously came across. I highly recommend this app if you are interested in learning Chinese.

        Brain training is powerful

        Brain training is a powerful (yet simple) way to improve your brain power, IQ, creative thinking, and critical thinking skills.

        As Marilyn vos Savan said,

        “The mind can stretch. It can be strengthened, toned, and conditioned to perform miracles for you.” – Marilyn vos Savant

        By using these 10 easy brain training hacks, you will find that you have the basic building blocks to increase your brain power.

        Reference

        More by this author

        Dr. Jamie Schwandt

        Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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        Last Updated on September 20, 2018

        8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

        8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

        You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

        Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

        When you train your brain, you will:

        • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
        • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
        • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

        So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

        1. Work your memory

        Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

        When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

        If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

        The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

        Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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        Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

        What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

        For example, say you just met someone new:

        “Hi, my name is George”

        Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

        Got it? Good.

        2. Do something different repeatedly

        By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

        Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

        It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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        And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

        But how does this apply to your life right now?

        Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

        Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

        Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

        So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

        You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

        That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

        3. Learn something new

        It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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        For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

        Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

        You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

        4. Follow a brain training program

        The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

        5. Work your body

        You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

        Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

        Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

        Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

        6. Spend time with your loved ones

        If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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        If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

        I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

        7. Avoid crossword puzzles

        Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

        Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

        Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

        8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

        Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

        When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

        So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

        The bottom line

        Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

        Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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