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February 18, 2013 / Mark Kerrigan

Five Ways to Boost Your Intelligence

braincogsHave you ever wondered what caused the “Age of Enlightenment?” (“What does this have to do with stimulating my mind,” you think. Trust me, I’ll get to it.)

The Age of Enlightenment, 18th Century, was a time when the focus on current thought was more practical rather than metaphysical or spiritual, like it had been before. This was a time when universal “Laws” came into the forefront of people’s minds.

Before the Age of Enlightenment, people in Europe, especially, had to be wary of drinking water. Therefore, they drank beer, and lots of it! Beer for breakfast, beer at lunch, wine or gin with dinner. This was a bit of a problem for the “thinkers” of the day. Think about it, they were constantly in an alcohol-fueled haze.
During the 18th Century, coffee houses had taken hold in Europe, and unlike taverns or pubs—where people went to drink liquor and sing off key, people went to these new gathering places to debate philosophy, talk politics, recite poetry, and collectively form ideas with their fellow coffee drinkers.

And since alcohol and beer are depressants, it dulled the minds of those people who drank even socially. Since coffee is a stimulant, it frees the tongue, makes people talk a little faster, and the mind works better. Think of it kind of like a car; beer and alcohol has the same effect on the mind that a sticky brakepad has on the car. It still goes, but not as efficiently or effectively as it could. Go from drinking beer to drinking coffee and it’s like putting a turbo into your sedan. And can you imagine what the people of the times felt like?

(My first shot of Espresso was one morning before a final—I think philosophy—and I was so jacked up that I was not focused, could not follow my own train of thought, and very, very disjointed in my thinking. The good news was that I finished first in a class of about 20, and I’m not that smart!)

So the first way to stimulate your mind is to abstain from beer alcohol and other mind-altering drugs. (I know, some of you are saying “But caffeine is a drug…” But I’m talking about depressants like marijuana.)

While there may be people who claim to do better either after a beer or two, or when they’re stoned, they are an exception rather than the rule.

Rather than drinking a six-pack, go splurge and get an expensive cup of coffee as a treat. I did that when I quit smoking—rather than buying cigarettes, I stopped by a coffeeshop and got a double shot of espresso. Then after a couple of weeks I upped the ante: I eventually was drinking 4-6 shots of espresso, plus 4-5 cups of regular coffee every day. Remember that I have a brain injury, and although I was increasing my tolerance to the caffeine, it was wreaking havoc on my brain, and I do not recommend that much caffeine for anyone!

Another way to boost your mental prowess is to do puzzles. Sudoku, crosswords, wordsearches, etc… Anything to keep your mind moving. Keep it going. Personally, I’ve always been a snob when I see people doing a wordsearch in a doctor’s office, but now I realize why people do that. Rather than just sitting in a chair playing games while waiting for the doc, they are actually stimulating their minds!

The third way to keep your mind active is to read voraciously! Honestly, I’ve never enjoyed reading. I love to write, but I have never read just because I was bored. My sister-in-law can do that—she just sits down for like three hours and reads because there’s nothing to do! (Personally, I’d find something to do in three hours!) The first book I remember loving was Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. Another book that I read just because I felt like I was missing out was Stephen King’s Pet Sematary.  I remember reading King’s book in bed, and my heart began to thump so hard that it was a distraction! I’d never experienced that before.

The fourth way to improve your facilities is to learn a new language. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been kinda lucky there. Languages come easy to me. And the scary thing is that even ten years later, I can still remember most of the words I learned for vocabulary tests. If it’s possible, get Rosetta Stone for a language you’ve always wanted to learn. In about 6 weeks, you will become pretty fluent. If you can’t shell out that kind of cash, maybe go to the internet for programs to help learn language. One that I’ve used in the recent past is LiveMocha (

It doesn’t have to be a language! If you prefer numbers, get a physics or calculus book and study integrals or the rate of something falling in a vacuum. A site I’ve just discovered recently is called the Khan Academy ( There are literally hundreds if not thousands of hours you could spend learning algebra, art history, American civics, and the list goes on! There is a button on one of the signup pages that says you can learn virtually anything for free. I think it’s true.

The fifth and final way you can increase the efficiency of your gray matter is to break your ordinary routines. Like if you tend to type your notes, maybe write longhand or even try writing with your non-dominant hand. Learn to paint or draw, especially if you don’t typically do either of those. Listen to classical music. Primarily, Mozart is renowned to increase one’s IQ. The experts say that even playing Mozart while a baby’s asleep or lying in a crib.

These were five simple yet effective ways to expand your mind and make it work more efficiently. They work for both brain-injured and non-brain-injured people. I will continue to provide tips and tricks for increasing one’s IQ, so check back often.



Leave a Comment
  1. Stephen Hughes / Feb 19 2013 2:29 pm

    Ah at last the key to enlightenment! (shame as I love strong coffee too, and the occasional red wine!)

    • onthemarkwriting / Feb 19 2013 9:38 pm

      Glad to hear that, Stephen. Coffee is a good thing, but I can’t do red wine!

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