The stereotypical “genius” you might see in a TV show or movie isn’t always someone you’d want as a dinner guest. They’re usually pretty antisocial, awkward, and condescending. The media makes it seem like if you want a high IQ, you have to sacrifice your EQ. EQ (emotional quotient) is a way of measuring someone’s emotional intelligence. People with a high EQ are empathetic, open-minded, and skilled at articulating their emotions. Basically, the opposite of the classic genius archetype you’ve seen on shows like Big Bang Theory or Sherlock. Yet, studies show that high emotional intelligence is actually the strongest predictor of performance and accounts for 58% of success in all types of jobs. So in order to succeed in life, you need both a high EQ and a high IQ. Here are a few tips to boost your IQ without sacrificing your EQ:
1. Learn something new.
When you learn something new, such as learning to play an instrument or speak a foreign language, it actually leads to structural changes in the brain. Language learning, of course, affects the language centers of your brain. A cool fact for all you neuroscience lovers out there – learning a new language increases cortical thickness and hippocampal volume. Additionally, learning a new language helps with other language-related skills like negotiating, reading, and problem solving. Similarly, learning an instrument can have a significant effect on your IQ. Learning how to play an instrument enhances executive control on non-verbal spatial tasks and auditory tasks, increases IQ, and improves verbal memory skills. Whether you decide to learn guitar or German, you should aim to learn from others. Sure, Youtube or Duolingo are great places to start, but learning from another person will help you get real time feedback as well as develop valuable interpersonal skills. You may use this time to get creative and meet virtually with friends who can help you learn something new!
Between ages 15 to 18, the human brain displays considerable plasticity. Plasticity describes the brain’s ability to adapt to a new situation, environment, or injury. It’s also helpful when you’re trying to improve your brain, or in this case, increase your IQ. A Swedish study found that during this critical stage in development, aerobic exercises significantly increased the participants’ IQ. That means that something as simple as going for a run in the morning can help you accomplish your goal of increasing your IQ. Exercising regularly also helps manage stress by boosting endorphins and improving your mood. The less stressed you are, the better you’ll be at expressing your emotions in a healthy and constructive way. Instead of running on your own to get in your daily cardio, consider joining a team sport or getting a group of friends together to go on walks or bike rides together. You can still exercise while practicing social distancing! Consider looking up workouts on YouTube or hosting an exercise class with your friends through Zoom. Now, you’re killing two birds with one stone by increasing your IQ and improving your social skills.
For thousands of years, people have meditated to achieve a more mindful state. Lately, mindfulness has become somewhat of a buzzword, with apps like Headspace and Calm cropping up and making mindfulness seem more achievable than ever before. Mindfulness is key to emotional intelligence as it increases your awareness and enables you to be more compassionate towards the people around you. In addition to helping your EQ, meditation can also increase your IQ. Long-term mindfulness meditation improves executive functioning and can even increase your attention span. Additionally, a recent study found that brief meditation, which could consist of just 20 minutes per day for four days, significantly improved sustained attention and executive processing efficiency. The psychologists who conducted this study attribute the increased cognitive abilities to the reduced ratings of fatigue and anxiety, which negatively affect information processing. So, by meditating for just 20 minutes a day, you not only become more mindful and rested but smarter and more focused.
4. Solve puzzles.
You might be scarred for life by countless weekends you spent being forced to solve puzzles with your grandparents. But actually, those long TV-less days might actually have benefited you in the long run. Solving puzzles, whether doing jigsaw puzzles on your kitchen table or sudoku on your iPhone, can help with memory, problem solving reasoning, and even language skills. A fun suggestion while you’re practicing social distancing – consider working on that 1000 piece puzzle or invite your friends to play a virtual game of Sudoku. That way, you’ll get to work on your interpersonal skills as well as boost your IQ.
5. Get a full night’s sleep.
It might seem counterintuitive to sleep instead of using those precious to study for an exam. However, getting a full night’s sleep will likely help you do better on that test than cramming ever could. According to a Time Magazine article, teenagers who receive A’s average about 15 minutes more sleep than B students, who receive 15 more minutes of sleep than C students. Even more shocking perhaps is that Avi Sadeh, director of the Laboratory for Children’s Sleep-Wake Disorders, has found that “a loss of one hour of sleep is equivalent to [the loss of] two years of cognitive maturation and development.” With that in mind, the decision should be easy: sleep more if you want a higher IQ and better academic performance. If you need more convincing, think about how much better your EQ would be if you had a full night’s sleep every night. You’d be less cranky, irritable, and fatigued, and probably bring a more empathetic energy to all of your relationships.
Notice that “locking yourself away with text books 24/7” didn’t make the list. While that might increase your knowledge, it won’t necessarily increase your cognitive capabilities. Increasing your IQ requires long term intellectual training, which the activities mentioned above can help you do.
As a student, it’s important to remember that IQ and the other numbers that reflect your intelligence, like your GPA or SAT score, are not always perfectly aligned. Someone with an average IQ but a great work ethic might be valedictorian, while someone with a high IQ and a bad habit of laziness could end up at the bottom of the class. The combination of all factors, such as one’s IQ, EQ, and determination, make up the qualities of highly successful people.