Michael is an avid content writer, blogger and researcher on topical themes related to human health and the process of sustainable recovery.
Intelligence is More Than a Number
What many believe is that your IQ is fixed and there is nothing you can do about it. Others adhere to the school of thought that the brain is only supposed to grow weaker with age and there are no remedial steps that can be taken.
There are so many sites and programs out there that promise to boost your IQ in record time. However, the measurement of IQ itself is comprehensive and encompasses several different parameters. A closer look at many of these programs leads to two conclusions. One is that they tend to be focused on only one part of the IQ spectrum and two, that they are deliberately hyped to maximize profit.
IQ itself is an index of measurement based on specific determinants and this quotient may not necessarily change by applying oneself through rigorous exams. However, there are proven ways through which an individual's intelligence can be improved. There are techniques which when applied correctly, facilitate regeneration or creation of new cells, thereby increasing brain productivity and potential.
Research shows that your intelligence is 50% due to genetics. The key therefore, is discovering ways of maximizing the other half. The ability of the brain to learn and improve is dependent on how it is being used. This is why, irrespective of how old you are, it is still possible to improve your mental capacity. Neural pathways can either increase, leading to a thickening of the brain or reduce, leading to the deterioration of the brain.
Improvement is not only possible, but also very necessary. One major reason for this is that the agents, systems and processes that were responsible for how we were brought up were imperfect. Hence, much of the information we possess was obtained through indoctrination rather than real education.
Indoctrination refers to a body of knowledge passively received which can be regurgitated in the same mindless fashion it was originally absorbed. Possessing this knowledge and even passing it onto others does not mean that we ourselves have really questioned its validity and thoroughly internalized its meaning to the point of making our own unbiased conclusions.
The Intelligence Misconception
We live in a world where speed is equated with efficiency. This influences much of what we do. It also influences how we understand intelligence. From the classroom to the boardroom, people who are able to come up with answers quickly or spontaneously are viewed to be more intelligent than their counterparts.
However, this is a misconception. The fact that a person is not as spontaneous with their answers does not mean they are dull or unintelligent. It may be quite the opposite. They may possess such superior intelligence that their brain requires more time to process because of the deeper perspectives and levels of insight that it must first review, before arriving at a conclusive answer.
Further, the way someone reacts to a problem or responds to a question may have more to do with their personality than their level of intelligence. Today, extroverts are celebrated and viewed as being more capable than introverts despite the fact that the latter are behind many of the greatest innovative changes in human history.
It is precisely because we judge based on appearances or what we can easily and readily observe, that we tend to assume the charismatic, outgoing, or extroverted person is the one who is more intelligent. However, the simple truth is that it is just their personality predisposing them to be more vocal with their train of thought.
1. Sleep Cycles
The great inventor Thomas Edison used an ingenious technique to ensure that he was mentally fit and prepared for his experiments. It is said that he would hold ball bearings in his hands before he took a nap. As he drifted into unconsciousness, the ball bearings would drop from his hands to the floor and the sound would wake him up. He would then get up immediately and proceed with his experiments. The objective of this was to make sure that he performed his work at a time when his brain was at its most optimal and productive state.
During the sleep cycles, the brain gets to regenerate itself through the production of new cells. Sleep is also crucial to the health and development of the brain because this is the time it uses to consolidate the learning process. During sleep, the brain stores memories that have collected throughout the day for future reference. If an individual lacks sufficient sleep, these processes become impaired.
You need to be intentional about protecting your sleep time from interferences. Create a preparatory period of unwinding after the responsibilities of the day in order to fully get into sleep mode. Avoid blue light from mobile phones or other electronic devices and train your body to fall asleep and wake up to the natural light of the sun.
Fortunately, in the place of ball bearings, there are a variety of smartwatches and wearable biological sensors that can track one's repose patterns wake them up at the optimal stage of their sleep cycles.
2. Aerobic Activity
People commonly believe that for the brain to operate optimally, other parts of the body must be completely still. In reality, having the rest of the body inactive is counterproductive to the mind. Staying stationary for long periods of time does not optimize mental clarity, productivity, or effectiveness.
In contrast, exercising other parts of your body to their full capacity stimulates the brain to function optimally. It is not helpful to stay cooped up for most of the day working on what may be considered intellectual. Even if you have to be in an office or cubicle at set times, taking regular breaks to move around will improve your mental capabilities.
There is a correlation between the fitness of the body and the fitness of the mind. So it is a kind of hyperbole to assume that people who are active physically are not intellectually inclined or gifted. Physical exercise has been shown to slow down the degeneration of brain cells. Exercise stimulates blood circulation, which in turn supplies the brain with oxygen and nutrients required for it to function optimally.
So instead of reaching out for stimulants like coffee and tea first thing in the morning, why not a full body workout? The exertion will invigorate your body and refresh your brain, preparing it to process new information and solve problems throughout the day. Create time to engage in breathing sessions and aerobic exercises daily in order to increase circulation and oxygen supply to the brain.
Set a positive cycle in motion. When the body is physically fit and well-rested, you actually feel better about yourself and the brain releases endorphins which boost your morale. The positive change in turn increases the capacity of the brain to process and store more information. The result is better coordination and increased mental clarity. Aside from defeating anxiety, depression, and other chronic issues, healthy exercise helps to slow down the elimination of your brain neurons.
3. Diet and Nutrition
As stated before, since the brain is central to the survival of the human being, there is a natural flow of blood that is supposed to nourish and supply it with what it needs to function normally. However, when one overeats or keeps consuming the wrong food, this flow of blood is diverted and redirected to the gut area.
This is because the body responds to what is taking place in the gut in much the same way field medics would rush into an emergency. Much processing needs to be done for the digestive system to sort out and get rid of all the food that has been ingested before it starts to decompose.
After the food has passed through the esophagus and has been deposited, all the internal organs involved have to work extra hard to process it and so the normal blood circulation to the brain is suspended. The body switches into emergency mode and begins to work desperately to prevent contamination from everything that is unprocessed. It therefore goes without saying that we really do need to watch over what and how much we eat. Overeating or piling up junk food means less blood supply to the brain.
Nutrition plays a key role in the cognitive processes and so you need to stock up on proper brain food. Start the day with a healthy breakfast as this will equip and set the mood for the brain throughout the day. Cut out calorie-packed food as it leads to brain fog and instead go for antioxidants which help protect the brain.
Include in your diet, eggs, fish, green veggies, berries, avocadoes, salmon, fish oil, and creatine. Wheat gram is also a powerful food source that aids memory, concentration, and blood supply to the brain. Omega 3 fatty acids are beneficial for both the brain and the heart.
Obesity not only damages the body, it harms the brain as well. Having excess fat means that the arteries responsible for transporting blood and oxygen to the brain are impaired because they are clogged. Consequently, the brain becomes undernourished which in turn impairs its functions.
4. Emotional Wellbeing
We have all heard of cases where someone did something really regrettable. Quiet, humble, law-abiding, clean citizens who have never had so much as a traffic ticket, are unceremoniously thrown into the limelight. They find themselves arraigned in the criminal dock facing trial for a heinous crime, to the utter shock and the disbelief of everyone who knows them.
Inevitably, questions begin to circulate. How could this innocent mother of three do such a thing? He was a loving dad, was he really capable of committing such a gruesome deed? To try and make sense of the situation, people will use words like 'snapped' or 'saw red'.
The reality is that the person's brain had been conditioned to a well-established pattern of acceptable and civil behavior. All it took was one moment of high emotion to override all that conditioning. In a second, a solid way of thinking that had been entrenched for many years was overturned.
When the emotion took over, in that single moment, the individual became a different person. He or she underwent a redefinition. The rush of feelings clouded their judgment and they were unable to think rationally, especially about the consequences of their actions. This was how the deed that was so completely out of character came about.
Here's the bottom line. If such a dramatic change can take place within a moral, reputable person in an instant, imagine what happens to us over time when we allow ourselves to dwell with negative emotions day after day. We may not realize it, but we are systematically compromising and sabotaging ourselves. The emotional state you are in right now is either facilitating or interfering with your ability to think clearly and responsibly.
Remaining in a constant state of anger, fear, guilt or sadness negatively impacts your brain's productivity. Stress and anxiety actually limit the growth of new neurons and add to the rate at which existing ones are eliminated.
Depression increases the cortisol levels in the body and the brain. This sabotages normal brain activity and makes it hard for the person to concentrate. When cortisol is deposited in certain parts of the brain like the hippocampus, it interferes with the ability of the brain to store short-term memories.
Seeing how much our emotional state can impact brain health makes it imperative for us to continuously stay vigilant. We need to be on the alert when it comes to identifying negative thoughts, rooting them out and replacing them with favorable ones. Use your imagination for positive change rather than negative ends. Our daydreams should be focused on inspirational themes, as this promotes brain function. Meditation and prayer have been found to be very useful in decluttering the soul and bringing both balance and serenity.
Another source of interference to watch out for is chemical in nature. Every foreign substance that you introduce into the body alters the delicate internal balance and ultimately the way the brain operates. So stay away from drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or other substances that have the potential of interfering with normal brain functions. Rather than evolving a dependence on inducements, it is always best to train the mind and body to cope and develop naturally as they are designed to.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Michael Duncan (author) from Germany on January 31, 2021:
Thanks for dropping by. Hope you are doing well in the new year despite all that has been going down.
Liz Westwood from UK on January 30, 2021:
This article gives fresh insight and useful suggestions on how to improve intelligence.