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15 Little Things You Can Do Every Day that You Never Knew Could Make You Smarter

15 Little Things You Can Do Every Day that You Never Knew Could Make You Smarter

Do you want to become smarter? Many people want to exercise their brain regularly, but struggle to find the time or money to take classes or invest in their intelligence.

Check out 15 little things that you can do every day to become smarter.

1. Start a productive hobby.

Doing something every other day will help you to learn more without even noticing. Knitting, running, and learning to read sheet music are all examples of fun, cheap hobbies that will help you to become smarter without realizing it.

2. Check the news online or read the newspaper.

Checking in with current affairs will help you to become more aware of world events and the society you live in. It will also help you to form educated and well-formed opinions that you can later discuss with others.

3. Start two to-do lists.

Start a to-do list with long-term goals and second with short-term goals. This will help you to figure out your priorities, and you can set yourself realistic career-based and personal goals.

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Your short-term to-do list should cover the next month or so, and your long-term to do list could take anywhere between one year or 25 years.

4. And an “I did” list.

Write a list of all of the accomplishments you have achieved this year, and add to it as you accomplish new things. Include both small and big achievements, to help motivate you to push further.

This can also show you how productive your week has been, and how you can be smarter and more proactive next week.

5. Read a chapter in a book.

Try to read a chapter in a book every day. Many people believe they don’t have time, but there are plenty of options; when you’re commuting to work, during your lunch or in the evening instead of surfing the Internet.

It doesn’t matter what you read; fiction can help you to see from another perspective and become more analytical, and a non-fiction book will teach you something new, whether it is about history or a biography.

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6. Come up with five different ideas everyday.

Be creative and use your brain every day! From solving your daily problems to thinking of funny movie and book ideas, coming up with ideas will exercise your brain and help you get used to relying on yourself, rather than Google.

7. Find answers to your questions.

Do penguins have knees? No matter how silly the question, try to find the answers to all the little, random question that fly through your head. You will become more knowledgeable in many different areas without feeling like you were learning!

8. Share your ideas with others.

Debating with others gives you the chance to analyze your ideas while adding to each other’s knowledge.

Debating also helps you learn to express your ideas coherently and intelligently. If you feel a little nervous, try joining a knowledgeable forum and join in a debate that is already happening.

9. Try different mindsets.

Take something you already have an opinion on and try to see things from the other side. Coming up with evidence to support it will help you to become more open-minded and inquisitive, helping you to think outside of the box on a daily basis.

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10. Start a list of things to stop doing.

Try to monitor your procrastination every day for a week, and write down your results. What activities do you do when you procrastinate, or it there anything that you do that leaves you feeling uninspired?

This will help you to break bad habits and figure out what you need to stop doing, making every day more productive for you.

11. Subscribe to interesting feeds.

If you like to spend time on social media, make your feeds more interesting and knowledgeable to become smarter. There are groups on Facebook and Twitter that cover science and political news, so consider searching through a few and finding a couple that really interest you personally.

12. Talk to someone interesting.

You are surrounded by interesting people, from your family to your boss to strangers on the street. People often learn more from strangers than their own loved ones.

13. Explore.

If you can’t afford to explore the world, explore your city. Try things you wouldn’t normally consider, from opera to going to a live music night. New experiences come with new facts and knowledge for you to discover, so take an adventure and see what you learn!

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14. Watch educational videos.

YouTube is filled with interesting vlogs and TED talks, so try to watch one a day while you’re relaxing. The videos range from 5 minutes long to 30, so even when you’re busy you can normally fit a 5 minute video into your day.

One of the best parts of these videos is that the information is presented in easy, digestible chunks, so even if you are half-listening you will probably end up learning a few things and becoming smarter!

15. Do something scary.

People who fear leaving their comfort zone can limit themselves with fear. From public speaking to eating a food you don’t like, try to push yourself out of your comfort zone once a day. These steps will help you to realize you can accomplish anything you want, as well as helping to make you more curious and open minded—as well as fearless!

Do you have any more tips that people can do every day to become smarter? Comment your ideas below!

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Amy Johnson

Amy is a writer who blogs about relationships and lifestyle advice.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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