IQ (Intelligence Quotient) is a measure developed from a series of standardized test to measure and compare intelligence among humans. Having a high IQ doesn’t really mean you’re going to be successful in life, but it certainly can help make certain aspects of life easier – especially when it comes to scholastic activities. Although it was once thought that IQ remained static throughout a person’s adulthood, there is some evidence that people can increase their intelligence quotient.
Activities that are healthy for your brain are generally related to helping boost IQ. There are links between IQ scores and: social status, parenting, mortality, and morbidity. Additionally, IQ scores can sometimes predict: job performance, educational advancement, income, whether you commit a crime, and special needs. As a human population, IQ has been rising at an average rate of three points per decade since the 1930’s – this is called “The Flynn effect.”
11 Ways to Increase IQ
People who exercise tend to have higher IQ scores than those who don’t. On average, individuals that take care of their bodies tend to be more intelligent than the chronic couch potatoes. Exercise is known to stimulate brain cell growth through a process called neurogenesis and flood the brain with pleasurable neurotransmitters like dopamine. Fitter individuals in high school are more likely to go on to college and do well there.
A lot of people don’t realize how powerful an effect rigorous exercise can have on decreasing stress and improving cognitive performance. I tend to think that exercise is one of the easiest ways to boost your IQ simply because it’s free and you can do it any time that’s convenient.
2. Stimulants and Nootropics (Smart Drugs)
Taking smart drugs like Adderall and NuVigil may help boost your IQ score. The abuse of these psychostimulants and cognitive enhancers is becoming more common these days to help people dominate the competition. They help people get into universities and graduate with good grades. These drugs will help you learn quicker and retain more information. There are many other enhancers like Ritalin on the market which stimulate the brain and boost brain power.
Any pill that increases your overall cognitive ability is going to help you improve your IQ score and performance on an IQ test. These are referred to by many as “smart drugs” for a reason. In my opinion, these boost mental brain power similar to taking steroids for improved physical abilities. Should you decide to take these medications to simply improve your cognition, just know that what comes up must come down; there’s no biological free lunch.
Eventually your tolerance is going to increase to the point where these no longer have an effect and withdrawal is generally tougher than most people admit. If there were one item on this list I would probably not want to get caught up in heavily, it would be the use of these smart drugs. Read: “The Potential Dangers of Nootropics.”
There are a variety of supplements that you can take to help boost your IQ. Will taking all of these supplements help you increase your IQ? Really the only way to find out is to experiment for yourself and see what happens. One of the most common ways to get a quick IQ boost is to drink some caffeine because it helps stimulate brain activity.
Caffeine + L-theanine – In combination these substances help improve performance on cognitively demanding tasks.
Creatine – Has been shown to help improve brain performance.
Ginkgo Biloba – Has been shown to help improve attention in healthy young volunteers.
It is known that meditation can help decrease stress, improve mood, and light up brain activity. Additionally, it can increase performance on intelligence-related measures and increase IQ scores over time. There are many different types of meditation that can be practiced, but one that has been proven effective is Transcendental Meditation. Nearly all types of meditation will improve general brain functioning and cognition, so if you are already practicing your IQ and cognition should continue to improve.
Transcendental meditation involves sitting peacefully with one’s eyes closed and focusing on a specific mantra. This helps your brain focus on one specific thing at a time and can help improve overall focus. Although there are many different types of meditation, if you want to improve your IQ score, I would recommend a focus-oriented approach. In other words, choose a type of concentration meditation as opposed to mindfulness meditation.
5. Healthy Diet + Vegetarian?
Researchers have found that diet does play a role in IQ and brain development throughout childhood. The degree to which IQ is affected later in life by food choices isn’t as well documented. However, if you want to boost your intelligence, it is best to avoid eating processed foods. Individuals who eat a lot of processed foods tend to have lower intelligence scores than people who eat healthier non-processed items. The researchers found that diet influenced IQ regardless of other factors.
Another interesting finding was that individuals that reported being a vegetarian by age 30 had scored (on average) 5 points higher on IQ tests than those who were non-vegetarian. Since higher IQ’s are linked with: less obesity, healthier hearts, and living a longer life – some researchers suggest vegetarianism may play a role. Theres a link between healthier lives and IQ, and a link between higher IQ and vegetarianism. Does that mean there’s a link between vegetarianism and health? Possibly – more research needs to be conducted for me to believe that being a vegetarian increases IQ especially because I tend to think meats and fish are healthy for the brain.
Although there aren’t many studies linking neurofeedback with improvements in IQ scores, there is evidence that it can help increase intelligence among individuals with ADD and ADHD. People with ADD and ADHD tend to have slower brain wave activity in certain brain regions compared to normal individuals. Training their brains to speed up production of brain waves in specific regions can help them perform better and improve their intelligence scores.
Despite the fact that neurofeedback isn’t used much other than to help with cases of ADD and ADHD, it does have potential to improve cognitive performance in a normal brain as well. If the brain wave patterns are slightly abnormal on the EEG, uptraining SMR, low beta, or mid range beta may help improve intelligence.
7. Brainwave Entrainment
In most therapies involving brain waves, the purpose is to help people who struggle with ADD and ADHD. People that don’t have any major problems with focus or concentration likely don’t need brain wave stimulation to help them improve their intelligence. Despite the fact that brainwave entrainment has only been studied in people with ADD and ADHD to determine whether it would boost IQ, it was effective and increasing the GPAs of college students.
Additionally, low levels of gamma brain waves have been linked to brain development problems and mental retardation. Gamma waves are the range higher than beta waves and at 40 Hz or 40 cycles per second, they are claimed to be associated with peak cognitive functioning – especially in regards to memory and perception. That does NOT necessarily mean that if you up-train gamma you will automatically become “in the zone” or develop an awesome memory.
I am a bit skeptical of most brainwave research out because it seems to be largely conducted and pushed by companies selling brainwave-related products. Based on what I’ve read it seems as though targeted uptraining of certain frequencies help individuals with ADD and ADHD more than anyone. There is still relatively little research involving brainwave entrainment in general – more needs to be conducted.
I’ve written up an article documenting the benefits of brainwave entrainment as well as the types of brainwave entrainment on the market. If you’re interested, consider reading those articles. I’ve also highlighted some potential dangers of brainwave entrainment, so do not assume that it’s always a utopian option. With the wrong type of training, you may reduce your IQ.
8. Brain Games, Brain Training, Puzzles
Many people swear by doing crossword puzzles and sudokus to keep their brain as sharp as possible. Companies that sell brain related puzzles and games tend to market the fact that they will help you boost your IQ and become smarter. What these games have potential to do is give your brain some exercise. They make you think and put forth some mental effort which is a good thing.
- Dual-N-Back training – This is a game that torches your working memory, and requires sustained time and effort.
- Crossword puzzles – Crosswords make people think and can keep your brain stimulated.
- Lumosity – There are specific brain training protocols on this website.
- Puzzles – Other types of puzzles that make you think and focus are good for your brain.
- Video games – Games like brain age and big brain academy may help your cognition.
- Sudoku – This is a popular game involving logic and numbers.
It was found that “memory training” helped give kids an IQ boost. Most of these games will help stimulate brain activity, thinking, and memory. If you are going to use a brain game in attempt to boost your IQ, research the program and determine whether others have had success with it as well.
9. Enriched Environment
Some agree that one of the most important things for developing a higher IQ is to grow up in an enriched environment. Many believe that individuals who grow up in an enriched environment tend to be smarter and have a higher socioeconomic status than those who do not. Although I think genetics plays a big role in determining intelligence, I think growing up in an enriched environment during pivotal developmental years can play a role too.
- Active learning – Actively learning new things helps your brain learn and may help you make connections that before were not possible. Learning a new skill such as chess, how to play a sport, how to juggle, or anything new for that matter – may help your brain in ways you never thought possible.
- New experiences – In addition to actively learning or engaging your brain to learn new things, new experiences can also help rewire and increase your intelligence. Something like taking a trip to a foreign country, becoming fluent in their language, and lifestyle is going to have an influence on your brain.
Although heredity plays a major role in the development of IQ, there is evidence that environment still plays a role. It is best to stimulate your brain as much as possible while growing up before the brain reaches adulthood. There are plenty of studies conducted on enriched environment vs. non-enriched environment – the enriched environment will produce a higher IQ.
10. Intermittent Fasting (BDNF)
It has been proven that the act of Intermittent Fasting helps improve cognitive functioning in both mice and humans. It works by increasing the amount of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). If you properly learn how to intermittently fast, you will be increasing your BDNF – which has been linked to improvements in both learning and memorization. It is obvious that if you are able to improve your ability to learn as well as your memory, you should experience an overall boost in intelligence. Ironically, the process of intermittent-fasting is also linked growing new brain cells.
Intermittent-fasting is nothing too complex. It involves eating for a specific window of time, followed by a period of “fasting” or not eating for a period of time. This can be done in windows of a specific number of hours, or this may be conducted on an alternative-day (i.e. every other day) basis. Not only could intermittent fasting give you a boost in intelligence, it also seems to be physically healthy and is hypothesized to help prevent against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Reading is especially important if you want to boost the IQ of your children. Some non-scientific studies have shown that reading can increase a child’s IQ by up to 6 points. Generally I would take these studies with a grain of salt since they are not published in any major journals. However, the fact is that reading will stimulate thought, learning new vocabulary, and helps people make connections between certain events should be good for the brain.
Theoretically, reading material that is both stimulating and challenging should be able to help improve a person’s IQ score. Whether reading a lot of books or difficult material improves intelligence is certainly up for debate. Some people think books and reading ability is linked to IQ, while others disagree. Scientific studies need to be conducted in readers vs. non readers to help determine IQ. I would guess that individuals that read more had a higher level of intelligence, but that’s just a guess.
How much can you increase your IQ?
Only you can determine whether you work towards boosting your IQ. If you are already satisfied with your level of mental performance – that’s great. However, if you are a person who is constantly trying to improve in every aspect in order to get the most out of life, then you may want to try some of the things on the list above and make a conscious effort to increase your intelligence quotient.
The best way to do it would be to take an IQ test before practicing these items on the list religiously for 90 days, and then take another one after. Then compare the score of your IQ after you have been training your brain and determine whether your intelligence has increased.
Why I Think IQ is relatively static over a lifetime
I’m not going to fill people with false hope by preaching that they can become a brilliant Einstein by practicing the items on the list. I think that each person has potential to increase their IQ if they work at it – the degree of increase depends on the person. Despite newer research, I tend to think IQ is relatively static over time, especially throughout adulthood. Sure IQ is going to increase from childhood throughout teenage years and into adulthood, but it is going to reach a peak. Eventually with aging and inevitable cognitive decline, it will slightly decrease as the human body and brain reach their final years.
I would think that if you continuously stimulate your brain, you can increase your IQ, but maintaining this increased level of intelligence over the long term is probably unlikely. If your intelligence increases a little bit, that’s a plus. Don’t get too down on yourself if you don’t have a genius level IQ, rather focus on working with the skills that you do have and using them to the best of your ability.