8 Things That Can Make You Smarter

Quick, name 8 things that can make you smarter. Studying, completing homework, paying attention in class, reading… what else? An article on Huffington Post explores 8 things that can expand your intelligence, as presented by the science of learning, and they might not be the first 8 things that jump to mind.

Here’s our synopsis of the list:

1. Situations
“[I]ntelligence is in large part a product of the situations we find ourselves in…”
What school you go to, what classes you take, what you do outside of school, who you talk to, even how much sleep you get, all effect learning. Are you putting yourself in situations both inside and outside school that will increase your knowledge?

2. Beliefs
“[O]ur mindset effectively creates the “psychological world” in which we live.”
There are two types of mindsets: one in which learning and ability are fixed (we have a limit to our abilities), and one in which learning and ability are flexible (we can continue to grow with practice). Do you believe that you’re ‘stuck’ with the ‘smarts’ you have, or do you believe that you can learn and achieve anything you set your mind to?

3. Expertise
“[I]t’s never too late to dive deep in a subject area that interests you…”
Becoming an expert on something takes time, but expert knowledge seems to differ from traditional knowledge. It is the difference between knowing something superficially, to knowing it automatically. It is the difference between learning something because you have to, and learning something because you want to. What subjects have rooted themselves in your mind and heart? Are you on your way to becoming an expert?

4. Attention
“[T]here are information-processing bottlenecks in everybody’s brain that prevent us from paying attention to two things at the same time.”
Having the ability to focus on one task at a time and resist the urge to multitask is crucial to learning, but is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do in today’s tech-driven world. How long are you truly able to focus on a single task before your attention wanders?

5. Emotions
“[O]ur emotional state represents a crucial internal situation that influences how intelligently we think and act.”
Happy vs. sad, hopeful vs. anxious, excited vs. stressed… our feelings impact our learning and decision-making. When we are in positive moods, we tend to be more focused, and creative, whereas negative moods make us easily distracted and limited in our ability to process information. Do you notice your emotions having an effect on your learning?

6. Technology
“For tech to make us smarter, we need to know when to put it away.”
Technology has allowed us to access information quicker and easier than ever before. But when it comes to replacing brain activity with tech activity (for example, relying on Google to solve something instead of our own brains), we are actually negatively impacting our learning and our skills. Learning and intelligence are about balancing brain power and tech power, and knowing the appropriate times to utilize both. What is your experience with using tech to learn?

7. Our Bodies
“All the things that make the heart work better — good nutrition, adequate sleep, regular exercise, moderate stress — make our gray matter work better, too.”
Our brains may be related to computers, but in fact, it may be better if we remember that our brains are part of our body, just like any of the other parts we need to survive. Brains react to sleeping, eating, exercising, and stress too, just as our bodies do. A tired, malnourished body = a tired, malnourished brain! How are you keeping your brain and body healthy?

8. Relationships
“A feeling of belonging is critical to the full expression of our ability…”
The people and places that surround us when we are learning have an impact on how well we learn. Feeling supported and comfortable in our learning (which includes making mistakes), benefits us and can help us learn through collaboration and networking. Learning is an active task, and we need to be in environments that support that process. Do you feel secure in your learning environments with other people to make mistakes, ask questions, and figure things out?

To read the full Huffington Post article, click here.

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