Every January for the past three years, I've had the same goal: to challenge my mind by learning Japanese and read more by tackling the digital mountain of books in my Kindle. I know both goals are good for my brain, but come February, I can't help but scream, I don't have enough time! This year, I'm taking a different approach. Rather than committing to reading the Game of Thrones saga or sign up for hours of language classes, I'm scaling it back with small activities to do while commuting to work or sipping my morning coffee. They're short and simple, but have a proven long lasting impact on your mind and wellbeing. Scroll down for five bite-size ways to boost your IQ in five minutes.
If you're guilty of texting a friend while reading your Kindle, we've got some worrying news for you: Research suggests it could be killing your IQ. A study by the University of Copenhagen has found constantly switching between digital devices could be rewiring our brains. People who used their phones while watching TV reported feeling more productive, but when tested, only half could recall key information. If that's not enough to turn off the TV, the University of London have also discovered men who multitask experience an IQ drop and have the same score of an 8-year-old child.
Pre-Google, people had to flex their research skills by scouring the library or reaching for an encyclopedia to answer a question. If your recent search list includes a string of questions, it's time to change your habit. Researchers at the University of Columbia have found that memory works differently in the Google age, and we are more likely to recall where information is saved rather than the information itself.
Break the habit with a curiosity list. When you want to know the answer to an intriguing question, fight the urge to just ask Google, and instead jot it down. Revisit the list when you have time to spare and give yourself 15 minutes to explore the topic in-depth to work your cognitive and recall skills.
If you want to boost your mind in the time it takes to walk a few blocks, listening to your iPod might be the key. For decades we've know that classical music lights up the brain, but in a groundbreaking Finnish study, researchers have confirmed the link between music and memory. People who listened to classical music had more activity of genes involved in "transport synaptic functions, learning and memory," and even saw a spike in dopamine, the "feel-good gene," says lead author Dr. Jarvela. Update your playlist with some instrumental tracks to reap the benefits.
The brain-boosting benefits of reading abound, from enhancing empathy to even reducing depression. If, like me, you struggle to find the time to pick up you favorite book, try a speed reading app. Syllable Speed Reader converts texts so that only a few words show on your screen at a time. It'll stop you "subvocalizing," or saying the word in your mind while reading, which slows the process.
Throughout life, people generate new brain cells. The more you challenge your brain, the more new nerve pathways form. These challenges don't need to be big though; something as simple as changing the route you walk to work can have a big impact. Seek out opportunities to disrupt your routine. If you always visit the same café, switch it up with a different choice. Studies show that tweaking simple everyday tasks increases brain activity.
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Sparrow B, Liu J, Wegner DM. Google effects on memory: cognitive consequences of having information at our fingertips. Science. 2011;333(6043):776-778. doi:10.1126/science.1207745
Chakravarthi Kanduri, Pirre Raijas, Minna Ahvenainen, Anju K. Philips, Liisa Ukkola-Vuoti, Harri Lähdesmäki, Irma Järvelä. The effect of listening to music on human transcriptome. PeerJ, 2015; 3: e830 doi: 10.7717/peerj.830
Pickersgill M, Martin P, Cunningham-Burley S. The changing brain: Neuroscience and the enduring import of everyday experience. Public Underst Sci. 2015;24(7):878-892. doi:10.1177/0963662514521550