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7 Ways To Become Smarter Even You Can Do

7 Ways To Become Smarter Even You Can Do

It’s always a great idea to work on our cognitive abilities in order to become smarter. After all, isn’t this a life skill that we can all agree is beneficial for us? If you want to become smarter, here are a seven great activities that will help you out.

1. Trivia Games

Trivia games are a great way to boost your cognitive abilities if played regularly. It’s not that this is about filling our heads up with facts and being a bore at a party—although that could be you if you wish. Instead, when you remember things such as trivia facts, you can become smarter by improving your long-term memory. Not only will you become smarter by playing, but by engaging friends or relatives you can deepen relationships through good-natured competitiveness. Surely this is better than slouching in front of the TV?

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2. Learn Song Words

As odd as this might sound, if you take time to learn the words of your favorite songs, you can make yourself smarter and get a bit more creative, too. Initially focus on your all time faves, and then work through your favorite albums and then onwards. If you cannot hear all of the words then look them up online (Google is your friend here). Most people who like music should be able to find more than 100 songs with lyrics that they would enjoy knowing the words to. By learning the words and tunes, not only do you improve your memory skills, you also engage some of the more creative aspects of your brain.

3. Playing Puzzles

Like trivia games, puzzles will help you become smarter by engaging the problem-solving parts of your brain. Whether you prefer jigsaws (which help your spacial awareness), sudoku (problem solving and number handling) or crosswords (language and problem solving), there is a puzzle game for you that can extend your smartness.

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4. Play Some Poker

Poker not only involves strategy but also weighing risks and acting accordingly. Poker requires you to know your hand and anticipate the other players’ actions. You need to learn how to read people’s “poker faces” and you need to anticipate what kind of a pot that you can win. Since poker games have lots of different rules, you will increase your knowledge and memory through playing.

5. Strategy Card Games

There are many different forms of strategy card games that will help you become smarter. These can include simple card games like the well known game Uno, all the way up to complicated collectors’ card games, such as Magic: The Gathering. Like poker, all of these games will increase your cognitive ability and make for great social activities.

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6. Video Games

Some people might consider playing video games to be a waste of time, but there are many games that can challenge you in ways you may have not considered. High-action, quick-thinking, first-person, shooting or driving games require the player to be aware of surroundings and act accordingly. Not only that, but the abstract nature of games and hand-to-eye coordination require the brain to engage in a way that isn’t usually associated with becoming smarter.

Aside from the high-octane, there are also “brain training” games. Whether straightforward puzzles, or more story-based adventure games, these will help you with puzzle solving and hand-to-eye coordination.

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7. Read, Read and Read Some More

Last but not least, reading will definitely help you become smarter. Whether it is poetry, books, magazines or web pages that you read, it doesn’t really matter as long as you read regularly. Reading helps you to develop your memory and improve your language skills. If you are the kind of person who can relax with a book for more than 15 minutes at a go, then you are also exercising your concentration skills. Not bad for something that so many people take for granted.

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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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