It is often argued that we are either born with the gift of natural ability or that it is something that can be improved and taught over time.
We all have that friend who for some reason is able to automatically learn something without even trying. They can pick up a guitar and start smashing out something only comparable to Eric Clapton; that friend who comes with you to learn French and ends up learning quicker and faster than you in the space of a week, impressing everyone with that je ne sais quoi.
So, if you are that unfortunate person who needs that extra bit of help then here are 10 hobbies that can make you that little bit smarter and that much wiser.
10) Playing a musical instrument
Yes, it may be obvious and even a little hackneyed, however, learning to play a musical instrument is very beneficial in a number of ways, both mentally and physically.
Playing anything from the double bass to the almighty triangle can help with creativity, analytical skills, languages and even maths.
When learning to play an instrument we also use our memory ability to the extreme, which results in endless problem solving and overall brain function.
Plus, no matter what you’re playing you look COOL. Right?
Any form of exercise is useful for the body, but how does it help make you smarter? Regular exercise and hard work-outs produce proteins that not only make you stout and sturdy but also help with memory, learning and concentration — all things that are connected with mental sharpness and being on dead-alert.
Scientists have also argued that when you are in a state of concentration, it is much more beneficial to move around regularly rather than sitting down for prolonged periods of time, as this could in fact hamper the brains controlled movement and general understanding.
So, when you’re at the office working on that presentation that needs to be done first thing tomorrow morning, why not try writing whilst attempting sit ups and 5K on-the-spot sprints?
Yeah, we all know how meditation is designed to make us much more relaxed and to help reduce stress, however it does have a number of other redeeming qualities. Meditating has been proven to help sharpen our focus on the menial tasks in life, all whilst advancing our memory skills at the same time.
Basically, meditating is something of a brain booster for our over worked and underpaid brains in that by meditating the brain it is allowed a little rest before it restarts and begins all over again. Think of it as a siesta for the brain minus the grogginess when you wake up.
Escapism is a key part of reading, and the feeling of leaving one’s problems and entering a dream-like state to concentrate on someone else’s worries for a change.
From fiction, biographies, anthologies and even graphic novels, reading can diminish stress and help you experience multiple emotions and how to deal with them.
Being able to handle such problems can help you feel better about yourself as a person and lay the foundations for a positive well-being and peaceful outlook on life.
Plus, knowledge is power, and the more you read the more wisdom you will discover. . .
The next time you’re reading a gossip magazine and skip the crossword to get the dirt on Brad and Angelina, pause and rethink a moment. Crosswords, word searches and Sudoku type mental trivia games are quite good at stimulating lateral thinking.
And it’s not just that — board games and riddles also come into the mix, all helping the brain to learn to respond to situations in creative ways and develop the ability to see things from different perspectives.
Just as important as it is to regularly exercise your body, working out your brain is also just as vital. So next time you can’t be bothered to go to the gym, pick up a crossword instead, and make your brain sweat.
5) Learning a new language
Yes, it is much more difficult to learn a language at a more advanced age due to the brain’s nature of becoming ‘too full’ for new words, however, it is most definitely not impossible. The process of learning a new language has numerous advantages from basic communication to an overall feeling of accomplishment.
Learning grammatical structures and pronunciation techniques can improve the overall intelligence of the health of your brain, plus it can enhance your planning and decision making skills as well as problem solving and flair for memory.
Plus, just like learning a new instrument, it’s cool (if not cooler) and opens your communication skills to a higher variation of people.
Cooking allows you to learn to multitask, and work with timing and control, which can be extremely useful inside and outside of the kitchen.
Many chefs take pride in their attention to detail which also shows a high level of creativity. When you cook, you measure with precision and have to make quick decisions — usually under pressure — all of which contributes to you becoming smarter and wiser in the long run.
Cooking can also make you feel good, and with confidence comes a great zeal which is useful for a much more positive approach to new challenges.
Writing your feelings down can produce a whole lot of benefits to a person’s brain and overall level of intelligence. Writing improves your linguistic abilities but also your imagination and awareness of the world around you. The good thing is that writing can take all different forms, from diaries and stories to poems and blogs.
Whatever you do, you are giving words to the images in your mind and learning to express yourself clearly. This can give you high levels of confidence, which can boost your intelligence and knowledge and, again, help you bring a much more positive outlook on life.
Travelling is an expensive hobby but it doesn’t always have to be. From the end of the world to just down the road, no matter where you go you will always learn something new, and experience something different to what you are usually used to.
Although it can be stressful at times, travelling can actually rid your mind of strain and force you to focus on tasks and jobs that you wouldn’t usually be doing. This helps your brain develop a wider range of problem-solving skills that go far beyond the inside of your home.
Every new place offers new things to learn, from the food, culture and lifestyle to the new languages and society that your brain needs to adapt to. Learning to adapt is an essential skill to have as it can be attributed to near enough every challenge that you will eventually have to face.
Ever found something interesting and wanted to find out every piece of information associated with that particular thing? From finding out who wrote specific Beatles songs to the origins of an apple, researching things can be fun and excellent in gaining random facts and (some would say) useless information.
Yes, general knowledge may seem invaluable, however, it is indeed quite the opposite. Stuffing your brain with a variety of specific information not only helps improve your memory but also, each piece of data stored can automatically lead you to something else in the future, forming a loose line of connections directly from the brain.
Learning the origins of an apple may somehow be able to help you solve a problem that can then go on to help you unravel another glitch further on down the line.
So, next time you find something that ‘little bit interesting’, why not delve into some further research of your own and learn something new and eventually beneficial.
Again, knowledge is power, remember?