The chill factor.
Benjamin Franklin went for daily swims in London’s chilly river Thames; Theodore Roosevelt went skinny-dipping in the cold waters of the Potomac River in Washington D.C. every winter.
Submerging yourself in water of various temperatures for physical and mental benefits is an ancient practice. The Greek sage Hippocrates said that water therapy “allays lassitude” (physical or mental weakness).
When you take a cold shower or swim, the shock causes your blood to move to the core of your body, and bathes your brain and vital organs in fresh blood. This is essential to be smarter than you are now!
Finish your showers with turning the temperature as cold as possible to give your brain an invigorating boost. If you’re feeling brave, you can try an ice bath.
Try it first.
Thomas Edison had a pretty rigorous interview process for potential employees. Besides requiring they are well-versed in random subjects, Edison gave them “The Salt Test.” He’d invite them to have a bowl of soup, but anyone adding salt without first tasting the soup failed the test. Salting before tasting was a clear sign of making decisions based on unfounded assumptions.
Intelligent minds are critical minds. Never jump in without testing the water; or in this case, tasting the soup.
Emilie du Châtelet went unrecognized for her pioneering scientific work in the early 18th century but was notorious for her active sex life. The latter may have had a significant impact on the former. Researchers have long found that sexual activity causes the release of hormones that buffer again stress, promotes neurogenesis (the production of new neurons) through the suppression of that stress, and ultimately can improve cognitive function.
Now, as a psychologist, I would be remiss to not add that all sex is not equal. When looking at the benefits of sexual activity, when it is done in the confines of a safe intimate marriage (for example), it yields the best benefits for the mind, body, and soul. Might this a way to be smarter?
Surround yourself with 24-karat gold… wait… what?
Every night, Dr. Yoshiko Nakamatsu, who patented more than 3,300 inventions including the floppy disk, would retire to his “Calm Room” — a bathroom tiled in 24-karat gold. Nakamatsu explains “The gold blocks out radio waves and television signals that are harmful to the imagination.”
He might have been on to something. While the link between radio waves and cancer is still undetermined, the cognitive effects of overexposure are undeniable. Since you probably can’t financially surround yourself with 24-karat gold, you can step away from the “smog” of radio waves we live in — computers, Wi-fi, cell phones, Bluetooth headsets.
To boost your mental performance, give your mind a reprieve from the technological buzz by taking a walk in nature or praying or meditating. Schedule daily time to mentally disconnect and recharge.
A Hunger Strike.
Pythagoras, the ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician, would systematically starve himself for 40 day periods. He taught his disciples his strict water-only fast in the belief that it boosted mental perception and creativity.
Modern studies have shown that fasting increases your Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), which aids in memory functioning and can stimulate the growth of new brain cells. The acute stress caused by fasting also causes the brain to release endorphins, which leads to feelings of well-being and euphoria.
Two popular forms of fasting are: 1) Intermittent Fasting, also known as alternate day fasting. This is where you abstain from food every other day for a period of time. 2) Calorie Restriction: consuming 30-40 percent fewer calories than usual each day for an extended period of time.
Cry me a river.
If you want to be as creative as Steve Jobs, start letting your tears flow. Jobs’ auto-biography reveals that he cried incessantly when he was frustrated and didn’t get his way, but also happy tears when he had experiences he described as “purity of spirit”.
Crying reduces stress. Tears remove stress-causing hormones and lowers your manganese levels, which regulates your mood. The emotional release of crying also leads to a mental balance; a sense of calm after the storm.
Rather than suppress the wave of emotions that triggers the tears, let them flow. The catharsis will lead to mental clarity.
Don’t allow education to restrict you.
Dropping out of school doesn’t mean you despise education, rather, you have a thirst for knowledge that is held up because your goals don’t align with your institution.
The list of notable dropouts includes Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and the youngest female billionaire, Elizabeth Holmes. They all reveal three key lessons: 1) being autodidactic (a self-learner); 2) identifying patterns and making successful predictions; 3) making bold decisions.
It’s a big risk to leave any commitment, not only college. Being a successful dropout means you’re constantly training your mind to look for patterns; to see the trajectory of multiple paths, and shifting to the one that aligns most with your goals.
It also means continuing to learn in unconventional ways. Auditing classes, attending lectures, and sharing thoughts with other brilliant people can encourage growth without conventional institutions.
Don’t rush to write it down.
JK Rowling’s billion-dollar Harry Potter series came to her as she sat on a train; she was too embarrassed to ask anyone for a pen, so she just let her mind wander for hours. Instead of drawing premature conclusions on her characters, she gave her ideas time to marinate, develop and evolve.
She unknowingly engaged her mind in the creative stage called “incubation.” It’s when your unconscious mind synthesizes all the information you encountered through your conscious work. The mental detachment and “mindless wandering” allows all your knowledge to marinate, leading to the “light-bulb” moment.
Let your ideas set until they jell before taking any major action or make any final decisions.
Dr. Sheri Fluellen is a Licensed Psychologist and the CEO of Mind Spa in Cheyenne Wyoming and Helena Montana. Mind Spa is the premier counseling center for mental health therapy and counseling. We have a robust team to help individual adults, adolescents, children, couples, and families. Dr. Fluellen works nationally with entrepreneurs, business owners, and high achievers who are hitting a wall somewhere in their life and want help gaining momentum again.