Did you know your favorite hobbies can actually make you smarter? From reading to regular exercise, what you do in your downtime can affect your brain in some pretty amazing ways.

We’ve compiled a list of the 7 hobbies that are sure to make you smarter. Not convinced? Read on to find out how your favorite pastimes give you brainpower.

1. Reading

If you love to read and enjoy a variety of genres, you are likely smarter than you would be had you not found an appreciation for books.

How it works: You constantly learn as your read, expanding your knowledge. Reading also teaches you how to cope or react when the unexpected occurs. It sharpens the mind, reduces stress, and allows you to experience a multitude of complex emotions.

2. Meditation

Taking time to reset with regular meditation sessions can indeed make you smarter. Learning to allow thoughts to pass without judgment is one sure-fire way to live a more peaceful life while increasing your intelligence.

How it works: Meditating relieves stress and dissipates worry, making it much easier to learn and think through real concerns. Therefore, being present through meditation can lead to a smarter you.

3. Playing an Instrument

Music may be good for the soul, but it’s also great for the brain. Learning to play a musical instrument like the piano opens a world of possibilities by improving confidence and boosting intellect.

How it works: People who play musical instruments often notice a marked improvement in fine motor skills. Instruments also promote creativity, improve concentration, and lead to better memory.

4. Physical Exercise

Keep your brain in its best shape possible by partaking in regular physical exercise. Moving your body leads to major health benefits, including a healthier brain.

How it works: Exercise increases intelligence by allowing blood to circulate to the brain. Studies show that physical movement leads to increased brain cells, alleviates tension, and allows for better rest.

5. Brain Games

If you’re fond of Sudoku puzzles, crosswords, or board games, you’re most likely increasing your brainpower without even realizing it.

How it works: Games for the brain work similarly to how physical exercise works for the body. You’re keeping your brain in shape by making connections, sharpening skills, and enhancing your knowledge.

6. Learning a Language

Yes, branching out and delving into a foreign language can lead to a smarter you. If you’ve always wanted to learn Italian or Spanish, now’s the time! You’ll flex your brain and get to know yourself in the process.

How it works: Learning a language expands your vocabulary, aids in problem-solving, and makes you a better planner. While it takes time to learn a new language, the knowledge that you’re strengthening your brain will carry you through.

7. Traveling

Boost your mood—and intelligence—by traveling to a new location. Travel can be the ultimate stress reliever. In fact, just the act of planning an adventure can lead to a less-stressed you.

How it works: When stress melts away, there’s more brain space to learn and enjoy tasks. When you travel, you expand your vocabulary, learn about new cultures, and get acquainted with new and exciting places.

Whether it’s scheduling meditation into your daily life, or planning an exotic trip across the ocean, you have the power to strengthen your brain, even during your downtime. When delving into a new hobby, pay close attention to how it impacts your everyday life. The results just might surprise you.