11 ways to become smarter that work for us

The tips on how to get smarter from the members of the Nerdish team

11 ways to become smarter that work for us

The tips on how to get smarter from the members of the Nerdish team

The overall obsession with smartness is pressing and frustrating. One would constantly ask themselves, “Am I smart enough for this position?” or “Am I smart enough to master this?”. And, consequently, “How do I get smarter?” and “How to increase intelligence?”In this Nerdish blog article, we’ve decided to list the proven ways to become smarter that work for us and bring us–a feeling, at least–that we’re doing just enough to keep up with the ever-demanding world.

In recent decades, the world has been obsessed with smartness and being smart. When applying to colleges, academic positions, or job openings, one might often stumble upon a range of requirements that, in one way or another, emphasize that an applicant has to meet some intellectual criteria. On your CV, you’ll have to list your ability to learn new things and acquire new skills fast; be flexible; be ready to accept new challenges, and so on. All these fall into the category of being smart, which basically means knowing more, learning quickly, thinking fast, adapting to change, and being open-minded.

1. Stimulating the mind

Mental stimulation is something you’ll come across when researching the web for a way to boost intelligence. In fact, mental stimulation comes into almost everything you do consciously. For instance, when you’re commuting to a new workplace, you’re constantly checking the surroundings and for your belongings, listen to announcements on the bus or subway to not miss your stop. Your mind gets visual, audial, and haptic stimuli and processes them. You stay alert and aware; you memorize the places you’re passing by. 

Still, at a certain point, any repetitive activity, like commuting, becomes a routine, loses its stimulative effect, and your mind gets bored. Then, you can add something new to the equation: browse for the news, do your online shopping, listen to music, or read something. 

Humans tend to seek at least some reward in everything, so when it comes to reading, large texts like books don’t work for everybody because everyone has their attention span. Let’s admit: not everybody can remember what was going on in the chapter you’d read yesterday on the bus. So, one might look for something in small chunks, like the news. Yet, the news has two qualities one might find irritating: it requires keeping the agenda in one’s mind and often brings bad surprises or emotional triggers. These two are stimulating, no doubt, yet something that allows you to keep your brain busy while not getting overwhelmed might be more suitable.

That’s one of the reasons we’ve created the Nerdish educational app: to provide ways to become smarter and more knowing week by week, in small chunks, and do it non-pressingly.

2. Learning new things to become smarter

Strictly speaking, everything you’re about to read below will have something to do with mental stimulations. When you learn something new–a fact, a notion, a concept–a new path emerges in your brain. Similar to a new route on the map of the otherwise uncharted territory, the feeling of learning and understanding something new is often inherently and instantly rewarding. Still, learning under pressure seldom comes with joy, and for many people designing a syllabus of their own to learn systemically is too much. Here, educational apps become salvation. An opportunity to learn something new in a safe environment without pressure is something that Nerdish aims to give its users.  

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3. Discovering connections

Seeing connections where no one has spotted them before is something innovators are famous for. This is also a thing that definitely makes you smarter. Perhaps, you’re familiar with the concept of “connecting the dots”: knowing your facts is one thing, but the ability to draw connections and arrive at conclusions is the next level. At Nerdish, we love to spot unexpected connections between different areas of knowledge when, say, a social context creates a possibility for an invention. This is why topics in the app are interlinked: you can learn your facts and draw connections between them.

4. Taking new routes to increase intelligence

This one is tough. First, all of us undergo a specialization at a pretty young age, willingly or not: we’re praised for what we do best, and the less lucky of us get scolded for doing something we’re interested in. Then, with all the aptitude tests at schools, we specialize even more. Colleges and jobs leave less and less space for maneuvering between the areas of interest. But the human mind is explorative. We always want to know what’s out there. At Nerdish, we’ve decided to give people an opportunity to learn unexpected things each week. One day you learn about the rise and fall of an ancient civilization; the other, you discover how the Industrial Revolution influenced the way we eat. We try to take new mental routes every day, and while this doesn’t help us become super-intelligent (if you know the way, tell us!), at least it keeps our minds flexible and thinking patterns non-rigid. 

5. Making your brain visualize things

Linking abstract concepts to mental images and trying to visualize the things you’ve heard or read about is an exercise that helps be more clever. Technically speaking, cleverness is an ability to quickly grasp how things work, what they might look like, how they will interact with each other, and model the outcome of such interactions. 

When you think of a beautiful car, you might think of something you’ve already seen in the street and liked. Yet, when you read a description of a town you’ve never visited or a story about an ancient event, your mind will almost certainly try to visualize the space, the objects within it, how those ancient people look like, what weapons or armor they wear. Thus, your brain creates new paths between its different parts, and that’s the aspect of the mind innovators and inventors use pretty often: they visualize things and processes they haven’t seen before.   

6. Stimulating imagination

When stuck in a daily routine, your mind exploits the same patterns on and on. Yet, when your routine is disrupted, you need an extraordinary solution. Such disruptions can be pretty stressful, and if your mind isn’t used to thinking imaginatively, you feel distressed. 

Perhaps, we all have a friend who tends to blame themselves for being “dumb” in stressful situations. But this “dumbness” might actually come from living along the rigid patterns. When you read or otherwise get to know about unfamiliar things, you automatically start imagining what it’s like to interact with those objects. Or, when reading about other people and their experiences, you can imagine what it’s like to be in their shoes or how to cope with situations they endure. Imagination can make your brain smarter by safely modeling situations you’ve never encountered before, even if it’s just for the sake of mental flexibility.

7. Increasing vocabulary

Numerous intelligence tests have a section that assesses your verbal skills, that is, how you can operate with words and compose sentences, understand a text, articulate your opinion, or tell a story about a random object. Speech has always been associated with intelligence. Still, when living in a steady social bubble and working in a narrow field, your vocabulary doesn’t grow or becomes poorer, which means fewer new neural paths in the brain and less verbal intelligence. When reading about something outside your bubble, you learn the words to describe something you couldn’t describe before. 

8. Learning a new language

Similar to increasing your vocabulary, learning a new language is one of the most popular answers to the question “How to become more intelligent?” And rightly so, because mastering a new language means paving new neural paths across many parts of the brain responsible for various mental activities. We use speech to communicate and think, to analyze ourselves and our surroundings, to describe emotions and senses, and to convey our experiences. New languages give us new means of doing all these things. 

According to the British Council, there are about 1.5 billion English language learners in the world. One of the most efficient ways to master a language is learning to think in it about your daily experiences and interactions, cultural phenomena, mentalities, and social ways of other people. Here, Nerdish might also come in handy for ESL or EFL learners: reading twice a week about something you know or have never thought about is a nice way to practice understanding and recognize cultural references.  

9. Interacting socially

Intelligence is a quality that has many facets, one of them social. People easily pass as smart when they’re good at reading social gestures, intonations, cultural references and are able to perform small-talk just about anything. Increasing your social intelligence is a two-way process: to become a smart person in the eyes of others, you need more social interactions; and the other way around: to have more social contexts, one needs to be confident and feel smart. And while Nerdish isn’t a social networking app, it certainly can help with the part that has to do with broadening your outlook and feeling confident in small talk about arts, politics, or popular science.

10. Telling people what you know

One of the ways of owning what you’ve learned is by telling other people about it. Sometimes, a brief “Today I’ve learned” story is actually a good way of answering a question about your day if you’re not up to sharing personal details about your life with others. As a byproduct, it is also a possible tip on how to become an intellectual, at least in the eyes of others. (But note that you’re reading this in a Nerdish blog, so we recommend using this advice with reservations.)

11. Focusing on other people

The part of paying attention to other people, their background, origin, perspective, experience, emotions, and social gestures have to do with emotional intelligence. In recent decades, emotional intelligence has become a truly valued part of the list of things that make you smarter. Reading about other cultures and experiences is a great way to start working on your emotional intelligence while paying attention to other people and their feelings is something that helps you practice this skill. 

We hope the list of the best ways to become smarter will be helpful. While there are no miraculous ways of becoming a super-genius instantly, practicing some of the things above might actually benefit you in your social life and at the workplace. At least, these are something we practice, and we’re happy to share our thoughts with you. 

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