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Last Updated on May 25, 2021

12 Proven Ways To Increase Your Intellectual Wellness

12 Proven Ways To Increase Your Intellectual Wellness
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Are you looking for ways to boost your brainpower, think faster, increase your cognitive capacity, and improve your overall health and happiness? If yes, then it’s time to focus on increasing your intellectual wellness.

Many people focus on their physical wellness and taking care of their bodies. However, it’s just as critical to dedicate time and energy to keep your mind healthy. Not only does intellectual wellness improve all of the above, but engaging in mentally stimulating activities may also reduce cognitive impairment and put you at a lower risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s.

What Is Intellectual Wellness?

So, what is wellness?

“Wellness as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and “not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Intellectual wellness, therefore, is an active pursuit of working towards an optimal intellectual state. It can include being open to new ideas, thinking critically, expanding your knowledge and skills, exposing yourself to new ideas, people, and beliefs, discovering more about yourself and your potential, being open to different perspectives, and fostering creativity.

12 Ways to Increase Intellectual Wellness

Lots of supplement companies make millions of dollars claiming to improve your brainpower and brain health. Do they work? Maybe. But there are plenty of things you can do, free of charge, to increase your intellectual wellness and improve your brain function.

Here are 12 ways to increase your intellectual wellness.

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1. Try Something New

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s capacity to continue growing and evolving in response to life experiences. Historically, scientists believed that the brain stopped growing after childhood. But current research shows that the brain can continue growing and changing throughout the lifespan.[1] Your brain can change and adapt through stimulation, stress, and experiences. Your job? To provide those experiences!

What new thing will you try to do outside your comfort zone? You could pick up a new sport, travel to a new location and learn about its history, learn a foreign language, or take a class at the local community college. What challenge will you choose to expand your brainpower?

2. Read

One of the common habits of the most successful people in the world? They read. Oprah, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Warren Buffet, Sheryl Sandberg, LeBron James are all avid readers.

So, what should you read? Anything that expands your mindset, your views, your experiences, and your knowledge. It can be a magazine, newspaper, or a good fiction or non-fiction book. It doesn’t matter. If it stimulates your mind and generates interest or allows you to learn something new or explore something interesting, dive in—your mind will thank you for it.

3. Exercise

Not only is exercise good for your heart and body, but it can also help improve another major muscle, your brain. In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise—the kind that gets your heart and sweat glands pumping—appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.[2]

Other studies show that aerobic exercise stimulates the release of the substance known as a brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which supports the growth of new connections in your brain. Ultimately, exercise enhances your learning, sharpens your memory, and helps you feel better overall.

Aim for at least 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise—walking, running, biking, swimming—three to five times per week.[3]

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4. Be Social

We are social beings hardwired for connection. That means we need to spend time engaging with others to thrive as we learn how to get a life we can enjoy. Studies have shown that people who socialize often have higher levels of happiness than those who don’t.[4] Plus, when you’re around others, we learn and grow because we hear different perspectives and new stories.

Make an effort to grow and nurture healthy relationships in your life. Spend time—either in person or virtually—with friends, family, and colleagues. Join a meetup hiking group, take a cooking or dance class, or join a recreational sports team. Attend the office (virtual) happy hour. Make a concerted effort to make deeper connections, listen attentively, and learn from the people around you.

5. Stay Curious

Curiosity increases brain activity and activation. Being curious about something not only improves learning about that specific subject but increases your overall learning and retention capabilities, too.[5]

Curious how your car engine works? Take it apart. Curious why your local baker started her bakery? Ask her. Curious about the plant-based movement? Watch a documentary. Identify one thing that you wish you understood better—big or small, it doesn’t matter. Just find something you’re curious about, explore that thing, and activate your brain!

6. Eat Well

The food you eat fuels not just your body but your brain. In fact, your brain consumes about 20% of your daily calories![6] Inflammatory foods such as sugar, dairy, and refined carbs affect you negatively, while clean, nutrient-dense foods affect you positively.

Some great food sources for brain health include antioxidants in blueberries, micronutrients such as magnesium and zinc in pumpkin seeds, vitamin K, folate, and beta carotene in green leafy vegetables, flavonoids in chocolate, lutein, and the healthy fats and compounds in nuts, specifically walnuts. Why do you think they’re shaped like a brain?! Increase your intellectual wellness by including a couple of these foods consistently into your diet.

7. Get Creative

Creativity stimulates your intellectual wellness and improves your overall health. Take music, for example. You’ve likely heard that music makes you smarter. One study showed that executive functions (EF) were enhanced in musicians compared to non-musicians. These include problem-solving, working memory, processing speed, and cognitive flexibility.[7]

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Not the musical type? That’s okay! You can get creative through doodling, painting, crafting, writing, photography, pottery, or even gardening—anything where you can come with an open heart and mind and dive in with curiosity and exploration.

8. Stay Hydrated

The human brain is composed of over 75% water, with some studies suggesting that the number is closer to 85%. What do you think happens when we are dehydrated? You guessed it—the cells in your brain are dehydrated too, and you experience brain fog, loss of focus, memory as well as headaches, and emotional issues like moodiness and fatigue. According to research, “water gives the brain the electrical energy for all brain functions, including thought and memory processes.”[8]

Do you want to improve your focus and clarity? Aim to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses daily. Increase the hydration factor by adding electrolytes or a little sea salt to increase absorption into your cells.

9. Sleep

Sleep. Sleep, you say? Doesn’t that seem like an odd thing to do if I want to grow my intellectual capacity? Shouldn’t I be actively doing something? When we sleep, our brain removes stored toxins and takes out the ‘mental trash,’ which allows our brains to function better. According to research, “sleep has a restorative function. Lack of sleep impairs reasoning, problem-solving, and attention to detail, among other effects.”[9]

I used to wear it as a badge of honor that I didn’t sleep much. Maybe you do, too. However, studies continue to emerge on the importance of getting enough quality sleep and, more importantly, the consequences when you don’t. Make getting at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep a priority. Your mind and body will thank you for it.

10. Practice Self-Reflection

Just like physical wellness is about growth and strength, so is intellectual wellness. Taking the time to reflect on yourself and your life is a great way to engage your brain.

Self-reflection is defined as “meditation or serious thought about one’s character, actions, and motives.” It’s about taking a step back and reflecting on your life, behavior, and beliefs. Self-reflection improves self-awareness, provides perspective, facilitates a deeper learning level, challenges your assumptions, enables learning and growth opportunities, and even improves confidence.

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Like the idea but not sure where to start? Here are some great tips for self-reflection.

11. Meditate

Meditation and mindfulness seem to be the answer to all that ails you, and yes, they can help with increasing your brainpower, too. Meditation allows you to calm your thoughts and achieve greater mental and emotional clarity.

Don’t want to meditate? Just breathe. Deep breathing increases circulation by bringing oxygen to your muscles and brain. It initiates your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest), promoting a state of calmness and quiets your mind.

What happened when you started to read this? Did you take a deep breath? Great, you should be feeling much clearer. Practicing deep breathing or meditation for just five minutes a day will make a huge difference in your intellectual wellness.

12. Pick Up Your Rubik’s Cube

Okay, you can probably tell I’m a child of the ’80s. Games can help exercise your brain and improve your long-term and working memory. Working through puzzles or finding words in patterns uses a great amount of brainpower. Increasing your ability to work through these activities can maintain and build your intellectual wellness.[10]

Want to go old school? Pick up a crossword puzzle, grab your book of sudoku, or play a game of chess. New school? Grab your smartphone for a game of Words with Friends or check out one of the many free brain game apps like Lumosity or Brain HQ.

Ready to Get Started?

You don’t need to do all of these to increase your intellectual wellness. Think of these as a menu to improve your brainpower and mental stimulation. Your next step? Identify two to three items you will commit to trying, then go out and do them.

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Your brain controls your body and your overall health and well-being—it’s time to commit to actively increasing intellectual wellness. Your brain will thank you for it!

More on Intellectual Wellness

Featured photo credit: Zan via unsplash.com

Reference

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Tracy Kennedy

Lifehack's Personal Development Expert, a results-driven coach dedicated to helping people achieve greater levels of happiness and success.

12 Proven Ways To Increase Your Intellectual Wellness How to Build Self-Esteem: A Guide to Realize Your Hidden Power How to Build Self Discipline to Excel in Life 10 Powerful Ways to Be More Confident 10 Strategies to Keep Moving Forward When Feeling Stuck

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Published on August 2, 2021

What Is Loss Aversion And How To Avoid This Bias

What Is Loss Aversion And How To Avoid This Bias
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Have you been feeling particularly cautious lately? Do you find yourself avoiding making major or seemingly risky decisions until you feel life has returned to “normal”? This isn’t unusual, and you are not alone. In these uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic, people would rather stick with what they perceive as safe. They veer away from making any sudden changes that could rock the boat and resort to loss aversion instead.

After more than a year of having to take drastic measures to secure our safety as well as those of our loved ones, it’s not surprising to find that some people would choose to hunker down even when faced with issues that don’t pose any mortal danger to them.

The pandemic has challenged us to become more resilient—a good thing—and even pick up an additional useful skill or two.[1] However, the flip side presents us with a potentially unfortunate side effect—that it could have altered our risk-taking behavior.

Read on to learn what loss aversion is and how you can avoid this bias.

Taking Risks, Making a Change

Why is it important to have a healthy view of risk? Shouldn’t we approach life with caution to avoid making mistakes?

I would say that, indeed, making careful, decisive choices will yield great results, so long as you can identify the line between being reasonably cautious and being downright fearful. There are also certain patterns in decision-making that you must watch out for.

To illustrate further, I present you with this example: Let’s say you meet a kind stranger who offers you your choice of a great deal with absolutely no tricks. He gives you $45. Then, he asks you if you want to hold on to the money or give it back to him in exchange for a coin flip. If it’s heads, he’ll give you $100 right then and there. If it’s tails, you get nothing.

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So, which one do you choose? Instant cash in your pocket or a chance to flip the coin? Think hard before you read further.

When I present this coin scenario to different audiences, about 80% say they’ll take the $45 from the stranger. That’s the choice I made when I was also presented with this scenario many years ago. The same can be said for most people in studies of similar choices.[2] And why not? The $45 is a sure thing, after all.

Back then, I thought that I’d certainly feel foolish if I took the risk just for a shot at getting $100 only to lose out. My gut instinct told me to avoid losing. I suppose anyone would feel the same way initially.

Here’s the thing, though. If we run the numbers, the chance of getting heads is 50%, so in half of all cases, you’ll get the $100. In the rest of the cases, you won’t get anything. So, that’s equal to $50 on average, compared with just $45.

Now, imagine if you flipped the coin 10 times, then 100 times, 1,000 times, on to 10,000 times, and then 100,000 times. At 100,000 times, on average you would win $5 million if you picked the coin flip for $100 every time, compared with $4.5 million if you picked $45 each time. The difference is an amazing $500,000.

This means that picking $45 as your gift from the stranger leads to you losing out. The correct choice—the one that will mostly not lead to you losing—is to pick the coin flip. Pick the other choice and you’re pretty much guaranteed to lose over multiple coin flips.

However, you might reason out that I presented the scenario as a one-time deal and not as a repeating opportunity. Perhaps, you’d say that if you knew it was a repeating scenario, then you would have picked differently.

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The problem lies with this: studies have shown that our gut addresses each scenario we face as a one-off.[3] In reality, we are presented with a multitude of such choices every day. We are goaded by our intuition to deal with each one as an isolated situation. However, these choices are part of a broader repeating pattern where our gut pushes us towards losing money. We avoid risks—fearful of losing—and end up losing in the end.

Why Are People Afraid to Take Risks?

We are prone to shying away from risks due to a mental blindspot called loss aversion.[4] This is one of the many dangerous judgment errors that result from how our brains are wired—what scholars in cognitive neuroscience and behavioral economics call cognitive biases.[5]

Research has shown that people are more sensitive to possible losses than potential gains.[6]

Loss aversion goads us into having an unhealthy view of risk, causing us to have a knee-jerk and one-size-fits-all approach to risk-taking, which is to outright reject it. This rejection runs counter to the resilience and flexibility we gained during these uncertain times. It also poses a threat to how we can continue to adapt to the shifting nature of this pandemic, as well as how to smoothly transition to a post-COVID life.[7]

The Sweeping Influence of Loss Aversion

It’s easy enough to think that loss aversion only comes into play during major decisions or turning points. However, we are presented with a multitude of similar choices daily that—much like in the coin-flip scenario—represent a broader pattern that could cause us to lose out in life.

Remember that loss aversion isn’t just limited to decisions that have a corresponding monetary result. It also applies to situations and circumstances where avoiding a possibly negative outcome might blind you to potentially positive changes in your life.

Here are some aspects of life that can easily be derailed by loss aversion.

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1. Exiting Toxic Relationships

Have you ever stayed in a relationship (romantic or otherwise) that has clearly already run its course? Perhaps this relationship already causes you distress or keeps you from reaching your personal goals.

Yet, despite indications that you would have a healthier, happier life without this stressful relationship, you find it difficult to walk away because of the disruption it would cause in your life. You worry about the loss of your routine, and this holds you back.

2. Making Much-Needed Career Changes

People are particularly cautious about making career changes especially during this pandemic, opting to “wait it out” and just trudging on until life returns to “normal.”

We need to remember that we may never get back the version of normal that we had pre-pandemic. Just as the world changed and readjusted to COVID, so did each individual, and so did employers.

Jobs and employment are constantly shifting and evolving, more so now than before, so you have to weigh and consider if the loss of an old job is truly that daunting versus transitioning to a new career that could enrich your life mid- and post-pandemic.

3. Dealing With Your Current Pandemic Life and Looking Forward

Loss aversion can trickle down even to the smallest perceivable things in life. With our wariness of COVID-19 modifying our behavior when it comes to going out, physical distancing, and socializing, it’s perfectly understandable to someday come out of this pandemic more cautious, more health-conscious, and more aware of our security than we were before 2020.

However, as we start to consider what the world will be like after the pandemic, we should also plan our lives accordingly. This means that while our social and networking circles were forcibly shrunk in the last year, there is no need to let our lives deliberately stagnate for fear of leaving our comfort zone.

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It also means that, when the time is right, we must be willing to reintegrate our lives into a changed world and balance the risk with a potentially more meaningful life.

Conclusion

While it might seem daunting, looking ahead into the future calls for a reexamination of loss aversion. If left unchecked, it will keep you from living your best life as it goads you into focusing on what you could lose versus what you might gain.

With or without the pandemic, viewing risk with a steady perspective can indeed be helpful when weighing how to proceed with major life decisions. However, focusing too much on the risk may lead to abject fear, which can keep you from making balanced, decisive choices.

Identifying the repeated pattern of our choices and knowing how to tackle and transform each possible loss into a gain will go a long way in winning in life—with or without a pandemic.

More Biases That Unconsiously Affect Us Every Day

Featured photo credit: AJ Yorio via unsplash.com

Reference

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