“If you get one percent better each day for one year, you'll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you're done.”
— James Clear
You have the power to become like the greatest minds and high performers to have ever lived. Think of Gandhi, Albert Einstein, and Leonardo da Vinci.
How you can become like them boils down to improving your cognitive skills. Because in order to become a genius, you have to improve your:
- Processing Speed
- Problem-Solving Skills
You might feel foolish at times, especially during those moments when you have a hard time understanding a complex topic. But don’t lose hope. The path to intelligence and high performance is within your control.
After reading this blog post, you’ll be equipped with the tips you need to implement daily to make people pick your brain and develop high performance.
1. Inhale an essential oil.
"Perfume is a story in odor, sometimes poetry in memory."
— Jean-Claude Ellena
When you inhale an essential oil, a type of aromatherapy application, its odor molecules bind with your olfactory receptor, which then sends that smell from your sensory neurons directly to the olfactory bulb . It's a part of your brain's limbic system that's associated with emotions and memories, explaining why scent can trigger emotional behaviors and past events.
According to research in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, essential oils can also help make you feel relaxed and get better sleep, as researchers have found that lavender essential oils increase your melatonin levels (which makes you feel sleepy) and decrease your cortisol levels (which makes you feel stressed and awake) . But remember, like any other thing, too little or too much cortisol is also harmful to your health.
So, when learning a new subject, it would be best to keep an essential oil by your side. You can inhale it directly from the bottle or use a diffuser.
Besides lemon and lavender, other popular types of essential oil are peppermint, bergamot, and eucalyptus. But for a change, consider using ashwagandha as an essential oil — it has a woody and earthy scent.
2. Break bad habits.
"A slight change in your daily habits can guide your life to a different destination."
— James Clear
Bad habits are bad for your brain health. And what’s bad for your brain health, obviously, isn’t good for your cognitive skills. For example, smoking harms the cerebral cortex , which is responsible for learning, memorizing, and critical thinking.
Another example is binge-watching. Research in Scientific Reports found that watching television for more than 3.5 hours daily has been associated with a decline in verbal memory . Also, binge-watching causes you to be physically inactive, making you miss out on the benefits of exercise, such as being better at learning and thinking.
There are many other bad habits you need to break to prevent cognitive decline. But remember, removing bad habits from your life isn’t easy and takes time. Be patient and persistent while doing the following:
- Identify what triggers your bad habits and remove them to stop making bad habits.
- Break one bad habit at a time to prevent feeling overwhelmed.
- Train yourself to delay gratification to resist temptation.
- Replace your bad habits with good ones (instead of just stopping your bad behaviors) to break them more effectively.
- Get an accountability partner to be committed to building good habits.
We often make bad habits because we’re not aware of them. So, reflect daily. Realize if you’re making a bad habit that hinders your success. Then, do something about it to change the course of your life.
3. Be curious.
"I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”
— Albert Einstein
Curiosity is the fuel for learning effectively. Without curiosity, studying becomes less fun and more complicated, making learning ineffective. However, it’s not just learning that curiosity enhances.
When 19 participants of a study published in Neuron were asked to review questions, rating how curious they were about the answer, researchers were able to discover that curiosity has an impact not only on learning but also on long-term memory .
To keep that curiosity within you alive, make sure that you have these habits:
- Asking great questions
- Reading books
- Trying new things
- Reflecting on your past
But aside from knowing how to be more curious, you also have to know what prevents curiosity. Negative thinking, like fear and doubt, is often the culprit in making you not curious. So, think more positively. Yes, it’s easier said than done. But remember, difficult doesn’t mean impossible.
4. Play chess.
“It ain't over till it's over.”
— Yogi Berra
There’s a reason why most smart people play chess. It’s a game that helps improve intelligence due to the necessary cognitive skills you’ll get from playing the sport, like:
- Critical thinking
- Executive function (like self-control and planning)
- Processing speed
Overall, it challenges the brain , which is like leaving your comfort zone. It makes you grow mentally. It doesn’t matter if you’re a student, an adult, or an elder experiencing dementia, chess will benefit you.
And if you’re concerned about sitting for long periods while playing chess, guess what? It can burn calories. One grandmaster even burned 560 calories after playing chess for 2 hours .
Actually, all activities that require thinking make you lose weight, as the brain uses approximately 20% of the calories consumed by your body .
What’s also interesting about chess is the vast amounts of lessons you can learn from it about your life. One of which is persistence. See, when you play chess, sometimes things won’t go as planned, or you’ll make blunders. But that doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. You have to keep going. You have to be persistent. Why? Well, just read the quote above.
5. Clean your ears.
“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
Cleaning your ears to improve cognitive function might not make sense, not until you remember how hard it is to comprehend something when you have a hard time hearing.
Although the ears can clean themselves, sometimes it needs to be manually cleaned due to excess production of ear wax.
This excess ear wax is one of the causes of hearing loss, which is a barrier to communicating and learning  — other causes are listening to loud music, getting an ear infection, and cleaning the ears with cotton buds. A study about this was done in Japan, and the researchers found that cerumen (another term for ear wax) removal indeed improved cognitive function .
If your ears produce too much ear wax, using a bulb syringe is a safe way to remove them from your ears.
6. Take long walks.
“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche
Steve Jobs, Charles Darwin, and Beethoven. These are just three of the many geniuses that took long walks throughout their career. And is there a benefit they get from this? Absolutely.
Because as it turns out, walking (regardless if it’s indoors or outdoors) improves your creativity. Stanford researchers were able to conclude this, as their study showed that the participants had an increase in creativity after walking on a treadmill .
Walking was also found to reduce stress, as doing this aerobic exercise releases happy hormones — lower stress levels affect memory formation .
So, if you’re struggling to solve a problem or understand what you’re reading, take a break. Walk for a couple of minutes. And let yourself have a Eureka moment.
Since we all have different fatigue levels, some people might get tired easily from taking long walks. There are two options here: Reducing the amount of time walking or building endurance. I bet you’ll go with the latter.
To prevent being tired quickly, taking taurine is an ideal choice for you because it’s been proven by numerous studies [13, 14, 15] to delay fatigue. You can take our Maximum Mind, which contains this nootropic substance along with other beneficial ingredients that will help improve your cognitive skills. But other than nootropic supplements, you can get taurine from energy drinks and taurine’s food sources (e.g., chicken, tuna, and milk).
7. Sing your heart out.
“Those who wish to sing always find a song.”
— Swedish Proverb
Singing requires you to memorize the lyrics. And do you know what memorizing does? It causes neuroplasticity to occur, forming and strengthening neural pathways in your brain . In other words, memorizing improves your memory. This benefits the elderly, as a study of people with dementia showed improvement in recall after a singing session .
Another way singing improves your cognitive skills is by releasing endorphins, serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine. The release of these happy hormones reduces anxiety and stress levels, which makes you a better problem-solver and decision-maker.
Try to sing while you’re in the shower, as both are great sources of relaxation . And here’s what’s more interesting, singing in the shower makes your voice sound better.
You can also drink tea to improve your voice by soothing your vocal cords. Some examples are matcha, black, and green tea. Another option would be herbal teas (which aren’t really teas), like ginger, chamomile, and ashwagandha tea.
8. Listen to binaural beats.
“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard.”
— Tim Notke
When you listen to two tones that differ in frequency, let’s say 100 Hertz (Hz) in your left ear and 80 Hz in your right ear, your brain produces and lets you hear a third tone. This is referred to as a binaural beat. In this case, the binaural beat you’re hearing is 20 Hz — the difference between the tone in your left and right ear.
It’s been said that listening to binaural beats allows your brain to produce a frequency that gets you to your desired brainwave . The following are each brainwave that affect binaural beats:
- Gamma Waves (Higher than 35 Hz): Increases working memory, processing speed, and attention span.
- Beta Waves (12 to 35 Hz): Improves critical thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving skills.
- Alpha Waves (8 to 12 Hz): Boosts relaxation, learning, and creativity.
- Theta Waves (4 to 8Hz): Causes daydream, intuition, and also creativity.
- Delta Waves (0.5 to 4 Hz): Improves sleep, mood, and even immunity.
Keep in mind, though, binaural beats will only work if both of your ears are listening to the different tones. Also, don’t turn the volume too high when listening to binaural beats — sounds over 85 decibels (dB) can lead to hearing loss.
9. Talk to yourself.
"Self-talk is the most powerful form of communication because it either empowers you or it defeats you."
— Wright Thurston
Self-talk allows you to clarify what you need to do and makes you more aware of your distractions, which is essential for improving your focus. However, self-talk is a general term.
There are numerous types of self-talk that will benefit your cognitive performance, while there's one type of self-talk that you want to stay away from as much as possible. You might have guessed it. But if not, it's negative self-talk, which researchers in Alzheimer’s & Dementia has found to be associated with cognitive decline .
Contrary to negative self-talk, positive self-talk improves your cognitive skills. Aside from improving mood, this optimistic conversation with yourself lowers stress, anxiety, and even symptoms of depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) — OCD is linked with cognitive dysfunction. In addition to lowering anxiety levels, another great way to achieve that is through motivational self-talk. But, of course, don't always rely on motivation.
When doing positive self-talk, remember to use second-person pronouns instead of first-person pronouns since the former allows you to regulate your emotions and be more calm, making you perform better even in stressful situations .
Self-talk then leads to self-explanation and self-instruction, which are also great for your cognitive capabilities. A study in Learning and Instruction even concluded that students who explained the new lessons they’ve learned in geometry to themselves were able to perform better in answering post-test, dealing with complex mathematical problems and acquiring knowledge .
10. Play a musical instrument.
"Where words fail, music speaks."
— Hans Christian Andersen
Aside from chess players, musicians have also been associated with intelligence. And rightly so, as playing musical instruments improves their auditory processing, pattern recognition, and motor skills — all of which contribute to learning effectively.
An example would be taking piano lessons, which a study from Frontiers in Psychology found was able to decrease depression and improve the mood of older adults .
So, if you used to play the guitar, rekindle that passion. And if you’re just starting out in the world of music, remember that it’s never too late.
"A man is like a novel: until the very last page you don't know how it will end. Otherwise it wouldn't be worth reading."
— Yevgeny Zamyatin
Not everyone is a genius, but anyone can be a genius. You just have to do the things that benefit your cognitive skills and avoid those that cause cognitive decline. It's that simple. The same concept goes with being a high performer, too.
Make sure to add most, if not all, of the activities stated above to challenge your brain, relax your mind, and give yourself mental clarity to become the smartest and most productive version of yourself.
It might take you longer than others, but that's not an excuse to stop pursuing the path to intelligence and high performance. And if you’re looking for a supplement to help your mind and body do these cognitive-improving activities, you can take our Maximum Mind — a mental performance supplement made for high-performers and those who aspire to become one.
It contains the nootropic ingredients mentioned a while ago, like ashwagandha and taurine, along with other nootropic substances that will help keep your mind sharp. To know more about each ingredient of this life-changing supplement, visit our science page.
- Walsh, C. (2020, February 27). How scent, emotion, and memory are intertwined — and exploited. Harvard Gazette.
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