For a long time, it was believed that people are born with a given level of intelligence, which can never be changed. However, various research studies have proven that intelligence can be developed by doing certain activities.

Here is a list of eight hobbies that make you smarter.

1. Play a Musical Instrument

When you play a musical instrument, certain parts of your brain are stimulated as you memorize the notes, use your hands, and feel the music. As you do these simultaneously, you are also developing your motor skills, analytical skills, memory, and creativity. According to scientists, these activities strengthen the corpus callosum, an area of your brain that bridges the left and right hemispheres, by creating new connections. These new relationships improve how your brain functions regardless of how old you are.

2. Read Anything

The benefits of reading are the same no matter what genre you’re reading. Reading reduces stress, which makes you feel better about yourself. Aside from reducing your stress, reading also increases the three types of intelligence: crystallized, fluid, and emotional. Crystallized intelligence improves your problem solving. Fluid intelligence is responsible for putting together the different pieces of knowledge you accumulate every day, and it also helps you detect patterns which allows you to navigate daily tasks easily. Emotional intelligence helps you accurately interpret events so that you can accurately respond to other people’s feelings.

3. Exercise Regularly

Here, exercise does not refer to the occasional hard workout. Instead, I’m referring to moderate exercise you do on a regular basis. When you exercise regularly, you help your body produce BDNF genes that are responsible for creating a type of protein in the brain and the spinal cord. These genes play a vital role in the growth and maintenance of your cells. If your body is healthy at the cellular level, your productivity and efficiency improves.

While exercise promotes growth and health at the cellular level, scientists speculate that prolonged periods of inactivity have an opposite effect on your brain by hindering its growth and plasticity.

4. Learn a New Language

If you want to improve your analytical and puzzle solving skills, study a new language. Research has shown that people who are bilingual are better at solving puzzles than people who are monolingual. If you can learn a new language successfully, your brain also gets better at performing any mentally demanding tasks, such as planning and problem-solving.

If you can speak at least two languages, your focus and attention become much sharper as you monitor your environment and can better direct your attention to processes. In fact, some companies advise their executives to learn a new language because of its intellectual benefits.

If you are vying for a higher position, it’s a great time to learn a new language. It not only make you smarter, it also opens up new opportunities you have not imagined before.

5. Test Your Cumulative Learning

Many intelligent students are in the habit of cramming for the finals with the intent of mastering the topic the day before the big test. The trouble with cramming is that the brain tends to forget these things quickly. The principle is pretty simple—knowledge acquired in haste will soon be forgotten, while knowledge that is repeated over time stays much longer in the memory.

One classic example of how cumulative learning works is when you learn a new language and you have to repeat the grammar and vocabulary several times to commit them to memory.

Apply the concept of cumulative learning to everyday life and your workplace by keeping track of important pieces of knowledge you acquire. Go through takeaways from recent books, observations during an important negotiation or keep a small journal to write anything that catches your attention. Start integrating cumulative learning into your self-improvement program.

6. Exercise Your Brain

When you solve crossword puzzles, brain teasers, or Sudoku, the neuroplasticity of your brain improves. Neuroplasticity is the ability of our brain to reorganize its neural pathways and synaptic connections. It happens when nerve cells respond in new ways, giving us an improved ability to see things from different points of view and understand different behaviors and emotions. As we become aware of these new patterns, our cognitive abilities also improve. Aside from improving our cognitive skills, increased neuroplasticity makes us less prone to mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.

7. Meditate

In 1992, Richard Dawson studied how brain waves behave during meditation. He used the Dalai Lama and some monks as his subjects for this study. His objective was to find evidence for his theory that the brain can generate and command specific brain waves during meditation. His assumption was correct as he observed the brains of the monks who entered a compassionate state of mind when told to meditate and focus on compassion.

Meditation became attractive to ambitious people because of what the study suggested: we can control our brainwaves and command them according to how we want to function. This means we can become more confident and powerful during business deals and negotiations, allowing us to be more convincing to our listeners and audience.

8. Cook Different Meals

If you think cooking is just about preparing food, you’re wrong. Cooking will not only make you smarter, it will also make you healthier. When you plan your meals and cook different kinds of food, you are unleashing your creativity. It also improves your focus as you pay more attention to details while you’re cooking. Moreover, it makes you even more mindful of what you feed yourself.

Putting It into Action

Hobbies are not just there to kill your boredom. They make you smarter because they stimulate your brain. So if you haven’t got a hobby yet, or are considering taking one up, start now and increase your brain power.Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Founder/CEO Just&Tom and JustasMarkus.com. Passionate traveler and blogger at Entrepreneur.com, Business.com, Influencive.com and others. Catch up with Justas on Twitter.

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