These are 50 actionable activities YOU can do to become smarter, keep your mind young and active, and gain experience-based intelligence.
Have you ever wondered – what are some healthy activities I can do for my mind, body, and soul? Look no further. Here are 50+ answers.
The key to unlock your genius
But before you read the 50 tips, there is one important skill that we all possess but rarely use to its fullest. This glorious mental skill is called “Attention” – our ability to select what information from this universe we want to process. Everything we do depends on it. Paying attention is not difficult at all but it is often out of our awareness. Your presence of mind, observation, concentration, memory, problem-solving, decision-making, etc. depends on our attention. Pay attention to information coming in from all our 7+ senses, pay attention to what is happening inside your mind, pay attention to your environment, notice what makes sense and what doesn’t, and pull information from your memory to focus on. Combine all of these and you will learn the art of paying attention and become an excellent observer. Once you learn that, you will be smarter than before. Your attention is key. This is what it means to be truly Mindful. Apart from the mental health benefits of mindfulness, it can supercharge your brain.
Simple actionable ways to become smarter and gain valuable insights
1. Accept that you do not know how far you can reach. Assuming something is impossible or unachievable can hamper your progress and limit your success.
2. Give learning a fair chance. Try different approaches, make it fun and relatable.
4. Breathe properly.
5. Maintain a healthy diet, don’t avoid fun.
6. Screw up, accept responsibility, and try to make amends.
7. Learn a language.
8. Learn another language that is culturally different from the other ones you know.
9. Travel to a variety of places.
10. Create social bonds with a variety of people.
11. Get out of your comfort zone in an organic way – allow yourself to NOT stay in your comfort zone.
12. Learn a musical instrument (here are some neuroscience tips for learning the guitar).
13. Learn how to code.
15. Learn a couple of strategy games – they allow you to explore fictional scenarios.
16. Actively think about hypotheticals, realistic rules can bog you down. While imagining, play around with absurd rules, stretch the concept of reality.
17. Practice the dual n-back task – it is one of the most reliable ways to improve working & short-term memory.
18. Learn a few memory techniques such as the peg system & the memory palace.
19. Sleep. If you are having trouble falling asleep, these sleep improving tips will help you.
20. Do not compromise long-term sleep. Sleep is a major player in learning and memory.
21. Repeat and make sure you address 19 & 20. Sleep is your biggest learning activity
22. Take care of your mental health early enough. Here are the signs and symptoms of poor mental health.
23. Change your mentality to Semper Paratus – always ready. With that, take the effort to actually be ready.
24. Expose yourself to a large variety of media.
25. Expose yourself to a large variety of genres of media.
26. Actively think about the contents of the media. Read and let the book transport you into its world.
27. Relax enough, not every minute has to be spent on productivity or learning something.
28. While learning something, use specially designed strategies or systems of learning. There is a way to study well, there is a way to learn how to code, there is a way to cook. Learn those.
29. Attend the Coursera course – learning how to learn. MOOCs have unexpected advantages. Here are a few.
30. Read a little bit about everything.
31. Read novels with commitment – they induce lasting changes.
32. Learn the art of improvisation – doing things in-the-moment, solving problems on the fly.
33. Get over path dependency – people do things just because they have been done a certain way. It may not be the most efficient way to do something.
34. Get over functional fixedness – the idea that an item has only one function. Get creative with how you use your resources. Also, try to overcome the Einstellung effect. Read about it here.
35. Teach an audience.
36. Explain things in easy terms and difficult terms – this will reveal your gaps in knowledge.
37. Add variety to what you learn and how you learn – The main predictor for adaptable learning is variations in the input. Variations help optimize the output and help you think in a flexible way.
38. While trying to solve a problem – don’t look for a direct solution. Break down the problem into smaller chunks and then try to solve each problem. Seek help if you can’t solve something smaller.
39. Give yourself a chance to solve any problem. The brain is active in processing information all the time. The answer may come to you. Give yourself time and let your brain arrive at a solution. The reward after succeeding (only because you gave it a chance) is great and highly motivating.
40. Accept that your brain is plastic and changeable with various degrees of effectiveness over time. Some things are harder but not impossible in old age. Old dogs can learn new tricks. You are not hard-wired to fail.
41. Set learning in motion. Dabble in an art form time to time, revisit it later. Over time, you’ll have gained some level of skill or information.
42. Learn to drive and follow rules – rules help you restrain your mind and allow you to maximize efficiency within limits. This is compatible with point 16. Rules can limit your flexibility, force an efficient solution, reduce the intensity of decision making, and even make things easy. Rules have both positive and negative sides.
43. It is always a good time to learn. Some strategic timing makes it way better – Learn 2 languages simultaneously instead of learning one after the other. Comparing and contrasting between 2 languages (or any 2 concepts) helps you learn them faster.
44. Discard the notion that you can only be actively doing 1 thing at a given time. There is no need to wait for some event to get over on most occasions. You can work on your mind alongside your body. You can work on a new hobby while improving an old skill.
45. Learn the art of conceptualizing mental models – mental representations of real-world processes – learn processes from economics, statistics, mathematics, physics, chemistry, cooking, etc.
46. Play Tetris. It’s one of the best games to help you at a cognitive level.
47. Play chess, learn Rubik’s cube algorithms, play checkers, etc.
48. Reward yourself, don’t be humble all the time, and know you deserve rewards when you do something good for yourself. Engaging the reward system in the brain will help you compound your motivation.
49. Large changes are terrifying and tall goals are way harder to reach than one imagines. Learn to improve a little bit at a time. Metaphorically, improve 1% at a time. Just a little bit. Non-zero improvement is still a positive improvement.
50. It’s good to randomly explore but it will help you to see a clear guided path between now and your desired state of learning/accomplishment. This is scaffolding – with a little bit of half-baked help and assistance, you can see a clearer path to your desired learning state. Help helps. Just a small nudge on what the solution looks like is great for learning. Reduce the assistance a little bit at a time until you don’t need it.
Bonus 1: Experience cultivates automatic processes in the brain that inform your perception, decision-making, judgment, etc. This is intuition. It may or may not always be right but gain enough experience to know when your intuition is reliable.
Bonus 2: Watch how experts do things – sensory exposure to how things are done is very helpful.
Bonus 3: Allow yourself the opportunity to stumble upon new things.
Bonus 4: Have fun while learning. Fun, sensory engagement and an improved mood avail more cognitive resources to improve your information processing capacity.
Bonus 5: Improve your capacity to have and show empathy – understanding someone else’s point of view and perspective. Empathy improves social intelligence and cognitive empathy can help you if you are stuck in a thinking pattern. Here are ways to improve it.
I don’t want this post to get unnecessarily long so here is an idea- Leave a comment asking for an explanation for any particular point and I’ll answer along with relevant research one at a time!
Here is a post on the fundamental processes that help you learn. These tips are directly based on applying those in the context of a high-quality life.
P.S. Are you specifically interested in the best ways to learn? Here is a post on how to learn and study effectively.
P.P.S. Do you want to know why you should learn even if you don’t need to learn? Here are 9 compelling reasons you should learn anyway.
P.P.P.S. This is an experimental post and very different from my regular posts. I actively test out writing formats to see what works. Humor me:)
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Hey! Thank you for reading; hope you enjoyed the article. I run Cognition Today to paint a holistic picture of psychology. My content here is referenced in Forbes, CNET, Entrepreneur, Lifehacker, a few books, academic courses, and research papers.
I’m an applied psychologist from Pune, India. Love sci-fi, horror media; Love rock, metal, synthwave, and pop music; can’t whistle; can play the guitar.