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Published on April 21, 2021

12 Proven Ways To Increase Your Intellectual Wellness

12 Proven Ways To Increase Your Intellectual Wellness

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?

The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness as the active pursuit of activities, choices, and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.[1]

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.

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.[2] Your brain can change and adapt through stimulation, stress, and experiences. Your job? To provide those experiences!

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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.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5] Plus, when you’re around others, we learn and grow because we hear different perspectives and new stories.

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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.[6]

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![7] 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.[8]

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.

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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.”[9]

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.”[10]

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.

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

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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.[11]

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.

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.

How to Build Self-Esteem: A Guide to Realize Your Hidden Power 12 Proven Ways To Increase Your Intellectual Wellness 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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Last Updated on April 28, 2021

What Is a Fixed Mindset And Can You Change It?

What Is a Fixed Mindset And Can You Change It?

I sometimes think that I will never be a good cook or that I just was not born to be bilingual. Occasionally, I catch my daughter saying that I cannot do it. And I hear people say things such as they are not good at math or not cut out to be in business.

These are all examples of a fixed mindset, and we are all guilty of it from time to time. Fortunately, a fixed mindset does not have to be forever.

What is a Fixed Mindset?

Psychologist Carol Dweck is one of the leading experts on mindset and the author of the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Early in her career, she identified two mindsets: growth and fixed. These two mindsets explain why some people face challenges head-on while others are crushed by it.

People with fixed mindsets think that their skills or abilities are set in stone and determined at birth. If you think you are bad at math, not good at sports, or a born musician, you are demonstrating a fixed mindset.

People with a growth mindset think that their skills and abilities can be improved and refined through effort and perseverance. When you take steps to improve yourself and stick with it, you are exhibiting a growth mindset.

False Growth Mindset

Dweck clarified her work by explaining that everyone has a fixed mindset at one time or another about one thing or another.[1] People do not permanently have either a fixed or growth mindset.

I might work hard in the gym to get stronger and more flexible while giving up on my piano lessons because I think I am not a musical person. This example shows that I have a growth mindset regarding my fitness but a fixed mindset regarding my piano playing.

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It is also an oversimplification to say that a growth mindset is just about effort. Dweck explains that effort and strategy are needed for a true growth mindset. It is not enough for me to just keep trying and failing. A true growth mindset involves effort, reflection, reassessment, and then more effort.

Self-awareness is a critical component of a growth mindset because you have to accurately assess your current progress to make appropriate changes toward meeting your goals. Just showing up is not going to cut it.

Fixed Mindset Triggers

A fixed mindset trigger is something that shifts your mindset away from thinking that abilities can be improved to thinking they are fixed or predetermined. Think about what might make you raise your hands in defeat and proclaim you are not good at something and never will be.

The most obvious fixed mindset trigger is someone telling you that you are not good at something. This can make it seem like your ability is set in stone.

Imagine you are trying your hardest in Spanish class, and the teacher offhandedly says, “It is a good thing you are good at math.” That comment can make it seem like you have always been bad at Spanish and always will be, regardless of the effort and determination you bring to the table.

Another fixed mindset trigger is people overreacting to failure. When people make a big deal out of your mistakes, it can seem like you’re just not meant to be pursuing whatever it is you failed at.

Let’s use our Spanish example. Let’s say you are working on your Spanish project—a film. You show it to a friend who starts laughing and points out how you said the word “Bota” instead of “Barco” over and over as the film zooms in on a boat. Instead of thinking about all the Spanish words you got right, your mind might dwell on that one egregious error, shifting you to a fixed mindset about your Spanish abilities.

Finally, people rescuing you from failure can trigger a fixed mindset. Continuing our Spanish language example, if your mom stops letting you do your Spanish homework and starts doing it herself to prevent you from failing, you might start to think that you are not good at Spanish and never have been and never will be.

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How Can You Change a Fixed Mindset?

Dweck talks about process praise as the antidote to a fixed mindset.

Process praise is when you compliment and encourage someone to put in the effort and use strategies and appropriate resources to learn and improve. While praising someone’s abilities often leads to a fixed mindset, process praise contributes to a growth mindset.

So if I want to help someone change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, I should say something like, “You worked so hard on this” or “What could you try to do better next time?” instead of “You are so good at this” or “It is so unfair. Your opponent must have cheated.”

You can try process praise for yourself, too. If you catch yourself making excuses, blaming someone or something else for your failure, or assuming your abilities are fixed, try process praise.

Focus instead on the effort you put in and strategies and resources you used to improve. Dweck recommends being matter-of-fact and not too strong or passive with your process praise. Be direct without being harsh or too accommodating.

Here are 8 other ways to shift from a fixed mindset to growth:

1. Do Not Blame

If you catch yourself blaming someone or something else for your failure, stop yourself and refocus on your role in your success or failure.

2. Aim for Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is key to a growth mindset. If you do not give much thought in your role in your success or failure, it is going to be difficult for you to strategize and improve.

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So, ask yourself questions about your effort, strategy, and resources. Could I have practiced harder? Am I using the best schedule for my rehearsals? Is there a better way for me to study before the next test?

3. Avoid Negative, Fixed Mindset Self-Talk

Try to catch yourself when you think in fixed mindset terms. Stop saying that you were not made to do this or were not born to become that. Instead, start focusing on the effort and strategy you put in.

4. Ask for Feedback (and listen to it)

Feedback goes in one ear and out the other when we have a fixed mindset. When people think their abilities are set in stone, they tend to make excuses, get defensive, and place blame when receiving feedback.

Break that cycle and actively seek out feedback. Do not get defensive or make excuses and listen closely to feedback, no matter how harsh. Use feedback to develop a better plan for improving your abilities.

5. Do Not Overreact to Failure (keep it in perspective)

Failure is a natural part of learning and improving, so do not overreact when it happens to you.[2]

Try to keep failure in perspective, so you do not fall into a fixed mindset.

6. Reflect and Reassess

Set aside time to reflect on your progress and plan how to improve. Remember that effort is only one part of a true growth mindset. You also need to refine your strategy.

7. Do Not Compare

When you compare yourself to others, it is easy to fall into a fixed mindset. We do not usually see the effort and perseverance others put in, which is why it can lead to a fixed mindset.

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If someone seems naturally smart, you do not actually know how much effort they put on studying. This is why comparing ourselves to others is a fixed mindset trap.

8. Celebrate Effort (process not product)

Finally, celebrate your effort and perseverance. Compliment yourself on how many piano classes you have taken or how you did not give up when Calculus class got tough.

If you get stuck on how good or bad you are, you may find yourself shifting back to that fixed mindset.

Final Thoughts on Changing a Fixed Mindset

It is somehow comforting to know that everyone experiences a fixed mindset from time to time. However, we should not oversimplify shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. It takes more than focusing on effort.

Do your best to notice when you start to compare yourself to others, make excuses, blame others for your mistakes, and disproportionately focus on your shortcomings. These are all fixed mindset traps.

Instead, practice focusing on your effort and strategy. How hard did you work? And is it time to switch up your game plan for learning and improving?

It is possible to change a fixed mindset as long as we are open and honest about what we need to do and change about ourselves.

More Tips to Improve Your Mindset

Featured photo credit: JD Mason via unsplash.com

Reference

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