7 Super Hobbies to make you smarter- according to Science

Sep 15, 2016 | Living, Science

Warren Buffett, the famous businessman, investor and philanthropist, once said “Whatever you like to do, make it a hobby and whatever the world likes to do, make it a business”. In our daily race for earning a livelihood, we often don’t find time for ourselves – to do the things that we love doing. A lot of us believe that hobbies are just a way of passing or eating up our free time. However, the benefits of hobbies are numerous and they can significantly improve the quality of our lives. Scientific research has proven that engaging in a hobby can delay the aging process of the brain, improve our creativity and enhance our memory & attention spans.

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“Find three hobbies you love: one to make you money, one to keep you in shape, and one to be creative.”

Anonymous

Find it hard to believe? Here are 7 hobbies and the positive influence that they have on our brains.

Running

Running is an incredible medicine for the brain. It stimulates brain growth through creation of new nerve cells and blood vessels within the brain. They help increase the volume of the midbrain (which controls vision and hearing) and hippocampus (linked to memory and learning). By doing so, they improve your memory and boost your ability to learn and recall information. A study found that moderately fit people did better on memory tests than those who were less fit. Running also enhances your ability to juggle multiple tasks and perform complex tasks.

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Music

Research has shown that both listening to music and playing musical instruments stimulate your brain and enhance memory. Moreover, this is a long-term effect and not just in the short run. Playing music requires you to focus on a host of things like pitch, rhythm, tempo and notes, which improves hand-eye coordination and concentration power. Playing in a group further enhances your concentration and attention spans. Moreover, studies have found that music can boost mathematical abilities as well as reading and comprehension skills.

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Studying Languages

Learning a new language improves cross-cultural communication and opens up work opportunities. Apart from that, learning languages also significantly impacts the brain. It creates new neural pathways and increases brain size, specifically the cerebral cortex (a layer of neurons responsible for memory, thought and action), thereby enhancing memory and brain sharpness. Learning and studying languages not only delays brain aging but also strengthens the brain’s ability to focus, entertain multiple possibilities and process information.

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Painting

Painting is a wonderful creative outlet to express yourself, but its effect on the brain is quite underestimated. Painting stimulates both the left and right hemispheres of your brain and enables brain cells to interact and communicate more effectively with each other. This not only delays brain aging but also encourages creative and out-of-the-box thinking as well as enhances problem-solving skills. Further, it boosts memory recollection skills and sharpens the mind through conceptual visualization and implementation. People who paint are less likely to develop memory loss illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease.

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Dancing

Dancing improves your cognitive skills by preparing the brain to be receptive to learning. It integrates several brain functions such as kinesthetic, rational, musical, and emotional, thereby improving neural connectivity and making information transmission faster and better. This in turn improves intelligence and decision-making skills. Visualizing movements while dancing also boosts muscle memory, which is useful in activities such as driving. Further, it reduces risk of dementia (memory disorder & impaired reasoning) and relieves stress and depression.

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Reading

While reading a novel, you have to remember a host of characters, their backgrounds, histories and ambitions, plots & sub-plots. These create new pathways in your brains and strengthen existing ones, thereby improving memory recall. Further, while reading a book, your attention is solely focused on the story, thus increasing your concentration and attention spans. Reading different styles and fiction also creates different brain patterns and enhances our imaginative capacity. Moreover, story structures encourage our brains to think in sequence, linking cause and effect, which improves our ability to tackle everyday problems.

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Playing Video Games

You have often been scolded for playing video/computer games and told to stay away from them. But video games can improve strategic thinking and multi-tasking ability – while playing, players are often required to plan their moves and keep track of various objects and events. Some games are fast and require split-second decision making, thereby improving reflexes and keeping your brains sharp. However, these benefits must be taken with a pinch of salt. Playing video/computer games for long hours may cause some parts of the brain to shrink and become disconnected, which can affect vital functions such as planning, organizing and empathy.

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