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Despite the constant hand-wringing that smartphones will lead to the downfall of society, there’s mounting evidence that your phone habit may not be so bad after all.
In fact, there are ways your phone might actually be good for you.
We’ve compiled a list of apps to boost your brainpower, hone your memory, and even improve your emotional intelligence.
The science of how exactly our brains work — and how much we can train them — is constantly evolving, but one thing’s for sure: there’s no better way to get smarter while waiting in line at the grocery store.
Whether you use an iPhone or an Android phone, there’s something here for you.
This is an update of an article originally written by Dylan Love.
Combining reading, writing, listening, and speaking exercises for maximum progress in minimal time, Duolingo is a free (and beautiful) app designed to help you learn one of 13 languages.
And you don’t have to be traveling any time soon to reap the potential benefits: research suggests that becoming multilingual boosts your cognitive power. Moreover, the process of learning a new language — whether or not you ever become fluent in it — may actually help you delay cognitive decline in old age.
With the Kindle app, you can systematically work your way through all of literature on your morning commute. Almost any book you can think of is available for purchase, but you can also download anything that’s out of copyright (i.e., most of the Western canon) for free.
Every day, Today in History delivers what happened, well, today in history.
Get a quick overview of the day’s historic births, deaths, and important events, and if something piques your interest, follow the in-app links to read more about related topics on Wikipedia. It’s a perfect way to connect with the past — and it will make you the MVP of pub quiz.
We know that mindful meditation can make you less anxious. But a growing body of research suggests that regular meditation may actually alter your neural networks and enhance your cognitive skills. It’s associated with better concentration, better memory, and superior multi-tasking skills.
Buddhify helps you get started with guided meditations designed for specific situations, from “waking up” to “walking in the city” and processing “difficult emotions.”
You don’t have to be in the process of releasing your first electropop album to take advantage of the brain-boosting power of GarageBand.
The app comes with a collection of built-in lessons for piano and guitar that are appropriate whether or not you’ve ever played a note before. As you learn, you’ll actually be improving the way your brain functions — and the current research suggests that those music-induced benefits could carry over into the rest of your life, too. You’ll be able to solve problems more efficiently and creatively, and you may even gain a few IQ points.
Elements are the building blocks of everything around us, and this video-based app brings 79 of them to life.
The Elements in Action gives “one definitive demonstration” of each element’s more amazing properties (what does happen when rubidium is dropped into water?), plus clearly written text explanations of their characteristics. Use it, and understand just a little bit more about how the world works.
DailyArt is an app that shows you one masterwork every day, complete with a mini-art history lesson.
Getting a daily dose of visual art will do more than make you a font of wisdom at museums. We’ve seen that looking at art seems to engage the mind and increase blood flow to the parts of the brain that process pleasure. But preliminary research suggests that exposure to art might also help boost critical thinking skills.
And if looking at art daily inspires you to make some of your own, so much the better: one study showed that people who participated in drawing workshops showed increased psychological resilience and better “functional connectivity” compared to their non-drawing peers.
One surefire way to beef up your brain: learn something new. Khan Academy offers thousands of free videos and articles on a vast array of topics, from algebra and macroeconomics to art history and music notation.
While the science of Lumosity’s brain trainer (and brain training in general) is still up for debate, some researchers maintain that the timed exercises really do stretch your cognitive abilities — and that the benefits are, in fact, transferable to the rest of your life.