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10 Easy Ways to Get Smarter—Stat

Call it “Holiday Brain.” From all those December cocktail parties to your time-off TV binges, chances are good your sharp mind has been blunted by way too much food, drink, and couch time.

Whip your underused noodle back into shape with these super easy, done-in-no-time tips. While everyone else is still recovering, you’ll start the New Year ready to rock and roll. (Check out these 10 Running Goals You Should Make for 2015 too).

Take a Walk In the Woods
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Strolling for just a few minutes in green spaces—woods, parks, nature trails—lowers stress, lifts symptoms of depression, and generally refreshes your mind in ways the improve mental performance, shows a study from the University of Michigan. While it’s not clear why hanging out in nature is so good for your brain, the U of M study is one of dozens that have linked time outdoors to mental health benefits. And if you're looking to have an adventure, these 7 Travel Destinations Definitely Answer the Call of the 'Wild'.

Sniff Some Rosemary
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People performed up to 13 percent better on a series of memory tasks after getting a few whiffs of rosemary, found a study from the U.K. The aroma of rosemary has “arousing” properties that stimulate your brain, the study team says. (Lavender, which is calming, had just the opposite effect on memory, the study data show.) In addition to rosemary, here are 7 More Scents for Your Health.

Offload Old Memories
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Storing stuff electronically—for example, saving party pics or meeting notes on your computer—may boost your memory for new info, shows a study from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Your brain can only keep so much stuff top of mind, so to speak. By saving things, your brain feels like it can stop storing those memories, which frees up room for new information, the study authors say. (Writing something down in a journal may have similar benefits, the study suggests.)

Nibble Dark Chocolate
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The flavonols in dark chocolate improve the flow of blood to your brain, which in turn boosts your ability to perform demanding mental tasks, finds a study from Northumbria University in the U.K. But you better hurry, because it looks like The World Is Running Out of Chocolate

Get It On
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Having sex triggers the creation of new neurons in your noodle and improves clarity of thinking, shows a University of Maryland study. Like other forms of exercise, sex speeds blood flow and neural activity, the authors say. It also lowers stress. Sex may even prevent brain decay and dementia, more research shows. In a slump? Check out these 8 Surprising Things That May Be Affecting Your Sex Life.

Smack Some Gum
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Another U.K. study found chewing gum improves your long-term and short-term memory. It’s possible the act of chewing stimulates certain nearby regions of your brain, or that the yummy gummy taste triggers the release of the brain-stimulating hormone insulin, the study authors say. (Another study found chewing gum before a test helped boost a student’s scores.)

Try Something New
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Take up ballet or bongo playing. It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as it’s new. That’s according to a study from McGill University in Canada that found people who took tango lessons for 10 weeks scored higher on memory and multitasking tests. Learning a new activity stimulates your brain by creating new neural pathways, the study suggests.

Move Your Body
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Exercise improves the flow of blood and nutrients to your brain. As a result, learning, memory, and pretty much any measure of brainpower improves when you work out, shows a University of Illinois study. (Check out Jada Pinkett Smith's Look-Hot-From-Behind Butt Workout to perk up your new year's fitness routine!)

Hang Out with Friends
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Not only does time spent with others help you de-stress, but it also challenges your brain in ways that increase your cognitive abilities, claims research from University College London. You probably don’t realize it, but interacting with others—following the conversation and coming up with appropriate responses and facial expressions—involves lots of different brain functions that grow stronger with practice, the study indicates.

Eat More Salmon
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Upping the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in your diet may improve both your mood and your working memory, which is the type you use to keep small bits of new information handy for immediate use, like the name of someone you just met. The University of Pittsburgh study authors say omega-3 appears to up your levels of one brain-supporting protein. (Salmon and olive oil are both great omega-3 sources.) And these 4 Brilliant Ways to Avoid the Same Old Grilled Salmon are sure to keep things fresh.

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