For a long time, people believed that they were born with a given level of intelligence, and we had to live up to our potential.  Yet science has proven that actually increase that potential through what we do.  It’s now known that by learning new skills, the brain creates new neural pathways.  Yet what are the best skills to learn?  I recently came across an article that shares seven hobbies that science says will make you smarter, listed below:

Musical instrument photograph

1. Play a musical instrument: Playing music helps stimulate various parts of the brain and increase such skills as creativity, analytical skills, language, math and fine motor skills.  While these are all things that other activities can provide for you, playing a musical instrument also strengthens the corpus callosum that links the hemispheres of the brain by creating new connections.  Regardless of your age, an improved corpus callosum helps with executive skills, memory, problem solving and overall brain function.

reading on a wall

2. Read: No matter what you read, reading has been proven to provide a whole array of benefits.  It reduces stress, which makes you feel better about yourself, and increases crystallized, fluid and emotional intelligence.  This helps with problem solving, putting different pieces of knowledge together to better navigate everyday life, detecting patterns, understanding processes and accurately interpreting and responding to other people’s feelings.  At work, this equals better managerial skills and a better understanding of how to make things happen.

regular exercise

3. Exercise: The key with this is regularity, which itself is much more effective than hard sporadic workouts.  Regular exercise causes the cells to be flooded with BDNF, a protein that helps with memory, learning, focus, concentration and understanding, also known as mental acuity.  Some scientists have speculated that the opposite, sitting down for a long period of time, hinders our brain from working better.

multicultural children

4. Learn a new language: Research reveals that bilingual people are better at solving puzzles than people who just speak one language.  Successfully learning new languages allows your brain to better perform any mentally demanding tasks, including planning and problem-solving.  Speaking at least two languages will also positively affect your skill to monitor your environment and better direct your attention to processes.

A stack of books

5. Test your cumulative learning: Many intelligent high school and college students “cram” for finals and then seem to have mastered the topic, if just for the day of a big test.  Yet we tend to forget these sort of things quickly, since we rarely need to repeat that knowledge in the same way.  One reason studying a language makes you smarter is because it requires cumulative learning.  Apply this concept to every day life and the workplace by keeping track of noteworthy bits of knowledge you require.

Working out your brain

6. Work out your brain: Sudoku, riddles, puzzles, video games and other such activities increase neuroplasticity, which allows us more ability to see things from different points-of-view and understand cause and effect of behaviors and emotions.  And considering that neuroplasticity is involved in various impairments, an increased amount can help prevent certain conditions.  For instance, people with high neuroplasticity are less susceptible to anxiety and depression, and can learn faster and memorize more.

Meditating monk

7. Meditate: In 1992, the Dalai Lama invited a scientist to study his brain waves during meditation and see whether or not he could generate specific brain waves on command.  When the Dalai Lama and other monks were told to meditate and focus on their compassion, their brain waves showed they were in a deeply compassionate state of mind.  This made meditation a lot more interesting to ambitious people, since it implied that we can control our own brain waves and feel whatever we want to feel.