It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Super… brain?
Wait a minute, that’s not right. Shouldn’t it be Superman?
No. In this case, it’s about superbrain. Your superbrain.
And if you’re thinking your brain is anything less than amazing, it’s time to snap out of that mindset right now. You’re so much smarter than you think you are. And even if you’re an old dog, there’s no age limit to learning new tricks. In fact, according to Jim Kwik, a brain performance expert, there are ways you can make yourself smarter, and here are seven super simple habits that will help you do so.
Boost Your Smarts With These 7 Habits
First you make your habits and then, your habits make you.— Jim Kwik
As research shows, half of the things we do daily are driven by repetition. Drinking coffee in the morning, flushing the toilet after you’ve used it, and even scrolling through TikTok before sleeping is all habits. And they’re so ingrained in our daily lives that we may feel ‘off’ if we don’t do them. Whether we really want to admit it or not, our habits govern our lives — even the ones that stimulate our brains.
So, here, we’ll jump into a list of habits to have to make yourself smarter.
1. A diet for your brain
Junk food to your brain is like kryptonite to Superman — the more there is, the weaker it gets. Studies have shown that diets high in processed or refined foods are harmful to the brain and can affect your mental wellbeing.
Eating high-quality foods will inject the proper nutrients — vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants — your brain needs to function at its optimum. So, what should you eat to have better focus, better memory, and think clearer? Jim suggests these top power foods (in no specific order):
- Coconut oil
- Green leafy vegetables
- Wild salmon or sardines
- Dark chocolate
These are just ten on Jim’s list, but there are other power foods that can give you that brain boost.
2. Get physical for your brain
Not everyone can move like Superman — lift a plane up in the sky or jump a building in a single bound. But what we can do is get physical for our brain.
Exercise affects your brain in so many ways:
- As your heart rate increases, more oxygen is pumped to your brain.
- Endorphins and dopamines are released, which lowers your stress levels and boosts your mood.
- Your brain is able to change and adapt better.
- You’re able to concentrate better.
- Your brain has more energy.
Jim explains that the primary function of your brain is to control your movement. His go-to exercise is high-intensity interval training (HIIT), but any type of fitness, like yoga, is beneficial. So, as your body moves, your brain grooves.
3. The little voice inside your head
Do you remember that 2018 social experiment by IKEA on bullying? They encouraged students to feed compliments to one plant and insults to the other. After 30 days, the plant with praise was healthy and thriving, while the bullied plant was wilted and droopy.
While the experiment was conducted to raise awareness of the effects of bullying, it also showed the detrimental effects of negative words on your psyche. This includes the negative words said to you and the ones you say to yourself.
According to Jim, “Your brain is like a supercomputer and your self-talk is the program it will run.” How you speak to yourself or how you allow other people to speak to you can greatly affect how your brain functions.
But you can flip the script and allow yourself the self-love and self-care you so deserve. Killing ANTs (automatic negative thoughts), as Jim calls it. And in turn, it’ll enable your brain to thrive in good health.
4. Write it down
“Dear Diary” is so 1990s, but journaling will always be the “new black.”
Research has shown that writing down your thoughts and feelings has great benefits for your brain. As well as helping with your mental health, keeping a journal can improve your memory function and help make you smarter.
As Neurologist Judy Willis explains, the practice of writing “can enhance the brain’s intake, processing, retaining, and retrieving of information.” She adds that it promotes the brain’s focus, boosts long-term memory, highlights patterns, allows the brain to reflect, and is “a source of conceptual development and stimulus of the brain’s highest cognition.”
Not sure how to start the habit of journaling? Here are three ways to inspire you:
- Figure out why you want to start journaling. What do you want to achieve from it?
- Choose your medium. Do you prefer writing or using a computer to pour out your thoughts?
- Find your journaling type. There are so many types out there — gratitude, bullet, guided, etc. And there’s no “right” or “wrong,” so which one suits you?
5. Have a morning routine
One incredible healthy habit to master is having a morning routine. Jim highlights making your bed and brushing your teeth in the morning — these bite-size behaviors can help you focus on what’s in front of you.
Make your bed
Making your bed may seem like a mundane task, but this simple act can be super beneficial in the long run. If you’re not convinced, maybe the wise words of Admiral William H. McRaven can.
In his 2014 Commencement Address at the University of Texas at Austin, recalls his basic training in the Navy Seals when his instructors would inspect the beds every morning. He remembers how making his bed to perfection every morning seemed ridiculous at the time since he and his mates were aspiring to be “real warriors.” But this simple act, he explains, has proven to be beneficial many times over.
He says, “if you make your bed every morning, you would have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. And by the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”
Brush your teeth
That seems like a logical thing to do in the morning, but here’s the trick to help boost your brainpower: brush your teeth with your opposite hand. No, for real.
Using your non-dominant hand to do a habitual task can strengthen the neural connections in your brain. A 2017 study by the University of Greifswald in Germany found that using the non-dominant hand can increase communication among cells in the part of the brain that’s responsible for executing a movement.
So, the next time you wake up, make a conscious effort to do one little task at a time. It helps set the tone of the day. And Admiral McRaven puts it best: “Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right.”
6. Sleep deeper, sleep smarter
If you have a bad night’s sleep, how do you feel the next day? Do you have the mental capacity to function well? Do you experience brain fog?
We often hear how sleep is important and Jim co-signs with that fact. He explains sleep is essential to your brain’s well being because:
- It takes the short-term memories that you learn throughout the day and converts them into long-term memories.
- When you sleep, you clear the plaque in your brain that can lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
- Sleep allows you to dream and the dream state allows you to come up with new solutions and ideas.
So, what can you do to get a good night’s sleep? Here are Jim’s hacks:
- Remove your digital devices
- Sleep in darkness
- Use the bedroom for only sleep or sex
- Keep your bedroom cool
- Get your exercise in the morning
And if you want some more motivation to get you on this journey to turn sleep into your superpower, Vishen Lakhiani, founder of Mindvalley, has got you covered.
7. Book smarts
If you’re a bibliophile, you’ve probably already got this habit down. But for those who dread reading, this one’s for you.
We’ve all heard how reading is good for you, but why? Research shows that reading regularly:
- Stimulates your mind
- Reduces stress
- Expands your vocabulary
- Improves your memory
- Strengthens your analytical thinking skills
- Improves your focus and concentration
Reading a book a day, like Jim, might sound overwhelming, but don’t stress. Thirty minutes a day, Jim suggests. You can do this.
Your Superbrain Is Your Superpower
Habits become habits through a routine.
According to Nir Eyal, author of Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, habits are done with little or no conscious thought. Routine, on the other hand, are things you do frequently and repeatedly.
“Forming a habit requires first sticking to a routine,” says Nir. “To do that, make time in your schedule, expect and learn to cope with discomfort, and find ways to pre-commit to the task.”
Just remember: don’t underestimate your capabilities to push past what you know and make yourself smarter. Because being an intelligent person isn’t about knowing more. It’s about stimulating your brain by learning new things and always staying curious.