To understand intellectual wellness, you first need to know what it’s not. Intellectual prowess, educational or occupational qualifications have nothing to do with it. Nor is it about IQ, acquired knowledge, or being a mastermind. So, what is intellectual health? It’s the fifth pillar of holistic wellness. It’s a vital part of a person’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being .
Swiss philosopher, David Bosshart, once said;
“The slower you move, the faster you die.”
David BosshartSwiss philosopher
It’s a blunt statement that refers to the mind and body. We all know the significant role that physical exercise plays. Not so many Americans see the value associated with exercising the brain, though .
Exercise the Brain
To be intellectually well is to nourish the brain. To do that we need to exercise the mind and conjure up thought processes. A lazy brain becomes weak and less effective, just like an unexercised body. The older someone gets, the more reluctant they are to learn new things. Many think they’re incapable, but it’s a misconception. It’s never too late to learn and get the brain back into gear .
Cognitive functioning begins to decline between the ages of 16–25, not that you’d notice. The good news is that anyone, at any age, can benefit from brain exercises. There are many effective brain training workouts and programs that Americans can tailor for personal gain , .
The Path to Intellectual Wellness
We can’t see it, but the brain affects all our thoughts, perceptions, and actions. It works the conscious and subconscious mind, but it’s not who we are, it’s a part of us. The question is, does your brain have control over you, or do you have control over it? The path to intellectual wellness requires the latter. It’s quite possible to retrain or rewire the brain in healthy people .
The rest of this guide looks at practical ways to cultivate your intellectual well-being. The three requirements—in their simplest form—include the following concepts:
- Keep the mind flexible and open to new ideas
- Stay informed
- Engage with others
Let’s begin by exploring simple ways to give the brain a much-needed boost.
How Intellectually Well Are You?
Give honest YES/NO answers to the seven points below to see how intellectually well you are. Consider working on any points that you respond to with NO.
- Am I open to change?
- Do I embrace new ideas?
- Do I learn new skills to promote personal growth?
- Do I seek life-changing educational opportunities?
- Do I consciously stimulate my mind with mental activities?
- Do I strive to be creative?
- Do I consciously challenge my mind?
We never stop learning. Sometimes it’s conscious and other times it’s unconscious, but we learn either way. Americans receive new information every day through radio, television, publications, and social media. When a person goes to bed at night, they know at least one thing they didn’t know when they woke that morning. This kind of learning is subconscious and does little to stimulate the mind.
Here are four proven suggestions that guarantee to stimulate the mind.
- Develop new skills or expand existing ones
- Strive to improve critical thinking
- Maintain an open mind
- Better time management
#1 Develop New Skills
Learning something new is not only for children with developing brains. Indeed, it’s something all Americans can benefit from whatever their age. The secret is to choose something that interests you rather than something you feel obliged to study. Acquiring new skills or improving existing ones enriches life. And the result of that has a positive impact on intellectual well-being.
Stimulating the brain in this way broadens one’s insight and opens the mind. There are countless activities to consider, many of which are free to pursue. Furthermore, recent studies suggest that a commitment to lifelong learning can reduce stress and delay the onset of dementia , .
#2 Improve Critical Thinking
The definition of critical thinking is a simple one. It’s the impartial analysis and assessment of facts to form knowledgeable judgments. The key word here is impartial. People often think they’re unbiased when in fact they’re not, though they may not see it. A person can believe they’re right, but it doesn’t always mean they are, it just means they think they are. There lies the difference.
Change the way you see things
A competent critical thinker can lay aside any preconceptions. There’s always room for further improvements even for great critical thinkers. You can decide to improve the way you view things, but you can’t will it. Most adults develop thought habits over time. If they’re bad habits, they need replacing with better ones. Improving critical thinking skills is an ongoing process .
Below are a few suggestions that can help to develop better critical thinking skills.
- Make better use of wasted time
- Work on one new problem a day—real or fancied
- Become mindful of the universal intellectual standards 
- Analyze and address your ego where necessary
- Evaluate any group influences there are in your life
- Get in touch with emotions.
- Look at constructive ways to reshape your character
- Maintain an intellectual journal and continue to revisit older entries
- Prepare to change the way you view life
These points deserve a separate page, and there are lots of excellent resources that can help. The aim is to analyze information without bias and be open to self-criticism when necessary. A critical thinker is an active listener and partakes in nonviolent communication. It’s also someone with foresight .
#3 Maintain an Open Mind
Being able to develop and maintain an open mind is an important part of intellectual wellness. Close-minded people don’t tend to have much in the way of inner peace.
Typical characteristics of a closed mind individual include the following behaviors:
- React inappropriately to differing opinions
- Shut down if they don’t want to hear or accept something
- Never step outside their comfort zone
- Small or no social circle; never make new friends
- Never asks questions on issues they don’t understand
An open-minded person behaves in ways that are opposite to the above. They are more optimistic and accepting of others. An open mind makes you more interested in learning and better at dealing with problems. An open mind is also an upshot of critical thinking , .
#4 Improve Time Management
Poor time management is the cause of unnecessary stress in people’s lives. Not everyone joins the dots, though. It can feel like juggling fragile plates at an unsustainable speed. Or, you’re on a runaway train that never stops. “There are not enough hours in the day,” is a common phrase. It’s hard to achieve intellectual wellness with chronic stress, no matter how slight.
Time is a precious asset, so it’s vital to make good use of it. When done well, effective time management results in a much better work/life balance. You have several ways to achieve this, but no one approach fits all. Some people write down the tasks for the day, week, or month ahead. They then prioritize the list and work through it in an exact order. It’s a simple yet highly effective technique.
Explore new time management tools and approaches
Here are a few other proven methods for organizing time more effectively:
- Use planners or calendars for goal setting and tasks
- Consider time management apps like Workflow and Timely
- Consider computer programs like RescueTime and Todoist
- Pause for thought before making new commitments
- Plan ahead by 2–3 days
- Review tomorrow’s plan at the end of today
- Categorize activities and events
- Keep the email inbox current and uncluttered
- Set aside specific time(s) to check and respond to email
You want to see exactly where your hours and minutes go and what’s robbing your precious time. It’s a real eye-opener for some people. Saving minutes on various tasks soon adds up. A few tweaks should claw back some valuable time to use for relaxation, play, and sleep .
The Importance of ‘ME’ Time
ME Time is essential to all aspects of wellness, including intellectual well-being. Life can be fast, noisy, and hectic, and that’s why time out is so vital to health. It doesn’t have to be long, but it does need to be regular. Even 10 minutes a day can be beneficial. It gives you time to pause, to reconnect with yourself, and return to your day with renewed vigor.
No Distractions Allowed
Effective time management should include a slot in the schedule for ‘me time.’ This time needs to be void of all distractions, and that includes mobile devices. The idea is to disconnect so that you’re in a better state when it’s time to reconnect. Me time tools can consist of books, meditation, or sitting still listening or watching the world go by. A quieter mind results in a calmer you .
An Unsung Hero of Intellectual Wellness: The Blissful Mind
Created by mindset coach Catherine Beard, The Blissful Mind is the perfect blog for anyone looking to improve their intellectual wellness. It offers intellectual stimulation, promotes insight into the self, and focuses on three pillars of intellectual wellness that can really make a difference in your life: mindset, self-care, and productivity. You can get tips and advice from perusing the blog and the incredibly helpful resources page, but if you’re looking for more personal guidance, Beard also offers individual coaching to help you improve your life in these areas.
Martin holds a Master’s degree from the University of Copenhagen in Biophysics, and he enjoys using the research skills he honed while getting his advanced degree to uncover exactly what it takes to feel better.