31 Ways to Get Smarter in 2012

Article excerpt

Read stuff. Learn new languages. Master chess. Zone out. Getting a bigger brain is easier--and more fun--than you think.

1. Play Words With Friends

Alec Baldwin is onto some-thing. Research shows word puzzles can help reduce the risk of Alz-hei-mer's and dementia, so don't feel guilty whiling away time with the popular smartphone game. Just make sure to turn it off when you fly...

2. Eat Turmeric

A common spice in Indian and Thai curries, this gingerlike root contains curcumin, which may reduce the risk of dementia. Just be tidy: in India, it is also used as an orange-yellow dye.

3. Take Tae Kwon Do

Or dance. Or play squash. Look for an activity that raises your heart rate and requires a lot of coordination, says John J. Ratey, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Even homebodies should be able to find a brain-boosting sport with interactive-game technologies like Microsoft Kinect and Nintendo Wii Fit.

4. Get News from Al Jazeera

Don't shut yourself out from new ideas. A 2009 study found that viewers of Al Jazeera English were more open-minded than people who got their news from CNN International and BBC World.

7. Download the TED App

The world's greatest minds gather annually at TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences to explore the cutting edge of issues like brain mapping and prenatal intelligence. If you can't attend, download the TED app for iOS and Android.

8. Go to a Literary Festival

Are Los Angeles, Wales, and Jaipur places you've always wanted to visit? Well, they all have major annual book festivals, so buy a ticket at the right time and learn a thing or two from big-shot authors like Tom Stoppard and Jennifer Egan as you travel.

9. Build a 'Memory Palace'

A trick for quick recall: associate the thing you want to remember with a vivid image. You may not have the patience to build a "memory palace," but at least get a sense of such techniques by reading Joshua Foer's Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything.

10. Learn a Language

Mastering a second language gives a workout to your prefrontal cortex, which affects decision making and emotions. Enroll in a class, embed in deepest Sichuan province, or simply pick up Rosetta Stone software and teach yourself Latin.

11. Eat Dark Chocolate

It might not boost your IQ overnight, but dark chocolate is reported to have memory-improving flavonoids. And go ahead and pair it with a glass of red wine--another great flavonoid source.

12. Join a Knitting Circle

Whip out the needles and make an awesome scarf. Refining motor ability can bolster cognitive skills. Plus--it'll keep you warm this winter.

13. Wipe the Smile Off Your Face

Experiments have shown that the simple act of frowning makes you more skeptical and analytic in your thinking.

15. Follow These People on Twitter

Nouriel Roubini (@Nouriel): Take in his economic genius--and friend him on Facebook to see photos of his playboy lifestyle. Jad Abumrad (@JadAbumrad): His show "Radiolab" is the smartest guide to science and philosophy on the airwaves.Colson Whitehead (@colsonwhitehead): The acclaimed novelist is just as insightful and funny in 140 characters.

16. Eat Yogurt

Probiotics are good for your stomach, but studies on mice suggest they are good for your brain, too: mice who ate them handled anxiety better and showed increased activity in sections of the brain handling emotions and memory. …