6 ways to optimize your intellect

You don’t have to set foot in a classroom to increase your brain power. Here’s how to get started right now.

Listen up 

The portability of listening anywhere at any time is one of the reasons podcasts are so popular. This time-shifted medium offers listeners just about anything they want to know more about. Podcasts are as short as ten minutes or as long as an hour. And there’s no shortage of topics. You can become versed in travel, culture, finance, psychology, history, political commentary or  a specific health topic. Download the free Podcast Addict for Droid or the Apple Podcast app on your iPhone. Easy to catch a podcast when you’re waiting in the carpool line at your kid’s school, work commute or folding laundry.

Learn a new language

Learning a new language on your own used to involve listening to cassette tape, hitting the stop and start button over and over. Now you can learn a new language without being bored. Duolingo utilizes listening, reading, writing, and speaking modules in a video game-like setting. Each module is short enough to sneak in a lesson while you’re at your kid’s soccer practice or before your flight leaves for France.

“Read” a book in a new way

Sure, you can read while you’re waiting for your doctor’s appointment, or maybe before bed, but audiobooks are the ideal solution for busy bibliophiles. It’s really awkward to hold a book while you are organizing your closet or painting the living room. Audiobooks are an easy and more enjoyable way to delve into fiction or non-fiction to fire up your grey matter. And if you’re a card-carrying member of your library, you use apps like Libby, OverDrive and more to download books for free.


According to research by Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Sara Laza, people who meditate showed increased brain activity and mass in the areas
responsible for memory, cognition, learning, and emotion. Try the Calm or Headspace app. Even if you can only carve out a few minutes a day, it will spark your noodle. Bonus—use it before bedtime for a more restful sleep.

Move …

… as in your body, not packing up and moving to a new house. Research shows that physical activity, whether it be running, playing basketball, riding a bike or walking, improved medial temporal lobe function. That’s the structure related to cognitive and emotional functions. Even better, these brain-boosting benefits are for all ages and any level of fitness, so lace up and walk around your neighborhood today. But get your doctor’s permission if you have any health concerns.


Your brain would like to see you eat less French fries and pizza and opt for foods that boost its power—like blueberries. Research published in the American Chemical Society studied adults with mild cognitive impairment. The participants were given blueberry extract powder (the equivalent of a cup of blueberries) every day for 16 weeks. Researchers noted an increased memory, better cognitive performance, and increased brain activity.

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