Your brain is like a muscle that needs exercise. You can make yourself smarter by increasing neural connections through novelty and stimulation.
1. Read a daily newspaper, literary classics and the Web.
You grow smarter by reflecting on issues, events and people and forming strong opinions.
2. Associate with smart people.
Engaging in conversation with a smart person is like playing tennis with a superior opponent.
3. Keep a journal.
Your insights and the connections you make about your past, present and future help to make neural connections.
On the road, you're forced to solve ordinary problems (food, lodging, language), all of which have become automatic at home.
5. Memorize things.
Lawrence Katz, author of Keep Your Brain Alive, says memorizing people's names or other important bits of information is a great way to keep your brain fit.
6. Take up a musical instrument.
Learning to play the violin, for example, involves physical coordination (working the strings and bow), intellectual challenge (reading music), sensory experience (hearing pitch and harmony), and intuitive work (mastering tempo and rhythm).
7. Play games and pursue hobbies.
The philosopher Alan Watts used to praise the kind of learning that is effortless, such as the play we experienced as kids.
8. Create new routines constantly.
Katz notes that unchanging routines make us intellectually flabby.
9. Change jobs and positions periodically.
Remember when you were in school, learning something new every semester? Some jobs are like a 15-unit class that never ends.