Have you ever called yourself dumb?
I have. In fact, I grew up believing it. I believed I was simply unlucky. I didn’t get the “smart” gene. I didn’t know how to do math, and I failed in science. Things never came easy to me, I remember asking my teachers to clarify things multiple times, and I’d feel so guilty when I saw their frustration in me over having to repeat themselves.
It made me feel really small. Like it was my fault I wasn’t mathematically gifted or capable of understanding science.
I opted for homeschooling in high school, partially because I was an introvert, but mostly because I felt so embarrassed to be in class knowing I sucked at essentially everything I did. It felt like every person around me was smart, except for me.
I had no career plans growing up. I wanted to write because reading felt like the only thing I was good at, but being an author wasn’t a “real” career where I came from.
Does College Actually Make You Smarter?
Studies have been showing that undergrads don’t study or write very much. A new controversial book has found that not much is learned during the first two years at a university.
Alas, I tried. I tried to go to college, and I ended up skipping classes because every time I listened to my professor talk, it felt like he was speaking a different language. I ultimately gave up on school.
I have nothing against going to college, in fact, my goal is to take a few writing classes at NYU one day. My problem was going to college for the wrong reasons, in hopes of it somehow magically turning me into a genius.
I wanted to be smart. I truly wanted to learn how to make better decisions. I wanted to be able to converse with other individuals on various topics. I was sick of surface-level stuff. I was sick of my friends who only wanted to party and talk about stuff that didn’t matter in the long run. I wanted to dive into topics that once intimidated me.
I wanted to learn philosophy and why the world works the way it does. I wanted to learn how to buy a house or how to be excellent at money management. I wanted to be intelligent.
According to Healthline, intelligence isn’t a set trait. It’s a changeable, flexible ability to learn and stimulate your brain that can improve over time. The key is to practice lifestyle habits that support and protect your brain. Your brain never stops learning.
While intelligence may be genetic, and we have no control over that, it’s also environmental. This means that we have all control of the environmental part, and we can do several things to help increase intelligence.
With that being said, here are three strategies I’ve been utilizing to boost my intelligence.
Chess is a workout for your brain.
Healthline shares over 10 benefits of playing chess, such as improved memory, the ability to comprehend tasks and respond efficiently to challenges, as well as elevating creativity.
Psychologists say that they utilize chess therapy with certain clients to gain insight into their client’s temperament. I’ve never been in therapy, but when I first gave chess a go, my partner told me that irritability was spilling out of me like an overboiling pot of hot water.
One study showed that moving knights and rooks around can, in fact, raise a person’s intelligence quotient. In a review of chess’s educational benefits, Robert Ferguson describes a study of 4,000 Venezuelan students that produced significant rises in IQ scores of both boys and girls after 4 months of chess instruction.
I got into chess after watching a few episodes of The Queen’s Gambit, a coming-of-age story about a woman succeeding in a male-dominated world. I never thought of playing chess before that because I always believed it was a game for geniuses. I couldn’t possibly understand it.
I’m no chess genius now, but playing it has definitely deepened my focus, and I find that the more I play it, the longer I can sit in peaceful silence analyzing each play without needing to check my phone or break focus. It’s an incredibly empowering game.
The main takeaway is that playing chess helps you stimulate your brain and gets you thinking, which inevitably increases brainpower.
In addition to that, it’ll help you practice controlling your irritability. At least, it did for me.
Speed listening is a simple technique that will allow you to consume more information in less amount of time.
The average rate of speech is around 150 words per minute. An article I read online says that the human brain can process about 800 words per minute. I’m not sure how accurate that is; in all honesty, I think my brain exploded at that piece of information, but it’s proven that our brains can process double the rate of speech at the very minimum.
There are two primary benefits to speed listening. One is that you’ll able to listen to significantly more material. Imagine how many educational audiobooks you can go through if you increase your audio speed.
I utilize this strategy with all of my YouTube videos as well as self-help books. I found that it was a little hard to understand what was going on at the beginning, but the more I listened, the faster my brain was able to process everything. With that being said, the second benefit is that your brain will learn to process the information you’re consuming quicker.
Ali Abdaal created a YouTube video on how speed listening completely changed his life. In his video, he says,
“Think of it like this, if you are driving 60 mph to get to your destination, why would you drive at 30 instead? So you could appreciate the scenery? Even though you’re allowed to drive 60? It just doesn’t make sense.”
The key to speed listening is just slightly seeking discomfort. Not to the point of not being able to comprehend it, but just start small. I set all of my YouTube videos and certain podcasts to 1.5–2.0.
Change Your Diet
What you eat is imperative to both your physical and mental performance.
For example, Omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and antioxidants are known to support brain health. Incorporating these foods into your lifestyle regularly can improve your brain’s health, which could translate into better mental function.
However, a deficit in Omega-3 can lead to a decline in concentration and attentiveness. Subpar levels of essential fatty acids contribute to difficulty with memory and focus, leading to irritability and anxiety. Dietary consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is one of the best-studied interactions between food and brain evolution, which is why it’s vital to include it in your diet.
I’ve always been a stickler for a healthy lifestyle, but at the end of 2020, I wanted to take it to a whole new level. I wanted to understand whether or not (as well as why) what I was consuming could increase my cognitive abilities and function. According to several studies, diet has a crucial role in shaping cognitive capacity and brain evolution.
For years, my diet consisted of lean proteins like chicken and tilapia. I didn’t supplement either, so when I started honing in on my diet, I began including more foods like salmon, flax, and the occasional supplement as well. I wanted to ensure that I was getting optimum amounts daily.
I’ve never felt better. I’ve never felt more clear-minded and focused. Diet truly is everything.
These 3 strategies aren’t going to turn you into Einstein, at least not yet, and not from my experience. However, the more you hone in on each one of these strategies, the better you’ll become, and the smarter you’ll get.
After all, a little bit is better than nothing. Good luck.