10 weird habits that indicate a high level of intelligence

If we were to think about what makes up high intelligence we tend to think of the conventional characteristics: a good memory and cognitive ability. 

There’s also a well of knowledge and creativity, and achievements. A good command of language, achievements, and the list goes on. 

But intelligent people can have some not-so-conventional quirks in their genetic makeup as well. 

Here are ten rather—ahem—odd habits that actually indicate a high level of intelligence. 

1) You like having complex conversations…with yourself 

One of my favorite books on going after your goals is Write It Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Klauser. In it, Klauser talks about how writing down your dreams and desires makes them come alive and puts them in focus so that they can come to fruition. 

She says writing down any obstacles towards your goals is a good way to take their power over you away.  

Similarly, I believe that talking through any inner conflicts you have can be a way to distance yourself from them, to observe them, and to objectively work through them—instead of being swayed by them. 

Psychologist Linda Sapadin says that saying your goals out loud focuses your attention, reinforces the message, and controls your runway emotions and screens out distractions.  

Talking to yourself means that you are self-reliant. Albert Einstein did it regularly. “People who talk to themselves are highly proficient and count on only themselves to figure out what they need.”

2) You like to think on your feet—literally

Like many people who work from home, I take a 45-minute walk everyday for a break, change of scenery, to clear my mind, as well as to gain inspiration and ideas for my writing. 

Some of history’s greatest intellectuals—artists, scientists, writers, and creators—credited long walks for their productive minds. 

Aristotle, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Albert Einstein, Friedrich Nietzsche, and many others made time for long walks, notes Thomas Oppong from Medium

“They used long walks for contemplation, reflection, and problem-solving,” he says. “They found walking helped them think better, ponder over ideas and get more done once they got back to writing, creating, designing, or composing.”

In the wise words of philosopher, poet, and environmental scientist Henry David Thoreau: “The moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”

3) But you also like to live on your couch

Conversely, those who live in their minds might live on their couch, according to a medical study by researcher Todd McElroy, who is a psychology professor at Florida Gulf University. 

Sixty student participants were given a standard psychological test called “Need for Cognition”—a test that has been used for many years to gauge how much interest a particular person has in thinking and solving mental problems. 

“Based on the results the group was divided into 30 thinkers and 30 non-thinkers. Then, all participants were given activity trackers for a week,” reported Inc. writer Jessica Stillman

After a week the results came through: “from Monday to Friday those who are less cognitively inclined were much more active than their brainier counterparts.”

The British Psychological Research Digest blog says that the findings “make sense in light of past research from the ‘90s that showed non-thinkers are more prone to boredom than thinkers, and find boredom more aversive.

Perhaps non-thinkers resort to physical activity as a way to avoid or escape their inner world, the blog added. 

4) You like to limit your interactions 

Many studies such as the one reported here reveal something intelligent people know like the back of their hand: they prefer to be alone and purposely have fewer friends.

“Interestingly, they seemed to be fully content and in sync with a secluded lifestyle,” says Aayishi Vithlani from Gujarat University in India. 

The study expressed how the intellectually-minded find it difficult to socialize—not because they’re antisocial per se, but because they simply don’t get much satisfaction from it.  

They also abhor the pressures associated with social interactions and are more apt to avoid them. 

Experts say that the intelligently-minded are fine with communicating with loved ones and close friends, but shy away from striking up conversations with co-workers, colleagues, distant relatives, and of course, strangers. 

5) You can adapt to anything 

You might think of intelligent people being a bit arrogant and stuck in their ways, but that’s a misconception. 

Intellectuals are actually pretty flexible and have the ability to thrive in different settings, says Shana Lebowitz from Business Insider. 

Former librarian and newspaper editor Donna F. Hammett writes that intelligent people tend to adapt by “showing what can be done regardless of the complications or restrictions placed upon them.”

The very definition of intelligence according to psychological research has to do with being able to change one’s behavior so that they can cope more effectively with their environment—or make changes to the environment they’re in. 

6) You feel the most awake at night 

pic1038 10 weird habits that indicate a high level of intelligence

To be honest, this one kind of surprised me. I assumed most intellectuals were morning people. 

“Actually, that’s the moment when the most groundbreaking ideas come to [smart people]…That’s why sleep is one of the many things successful people sacrifice to achieve greatness,” according to Enterprise League

“Barack Obama, Winston Churchill, and Charles Darwin were all-night thinkers. And look where they got.”

As someone who likes to ease into her day and does her best thinking in the evening (I could never be part of the “5 AM Club”)—I wholeheartedly approve. 

7) Masterminds tend to be rather messy 

If any of you intellectuals out there are given a hard time for not being the tidiest of people, a study by the University of Minnesota is taking your side. 

The study suggests that the messy desk of highly intelligent people is connected to their intelligence level.

“If you don’t spend much time cleaning and organizing everything around you, your mind is obviously occupied with more important stuff,” says John Stanley Hunter of The Independent, who reported on the study. 

Sounds like sound logic to me. 

8) You can curse better than a sailor

It’s usually assumed that those who have a penchant for cursing tend to have a lower intelligence quotient and educational background. 

This notion comes from the theory that when people can’t think of the right adjective to use, they resort to slang and swearing to fill in the blanks. 

Timothy Jay, PhD, who is an expert in cursing (who knew swearing was a speciality), disproves this common perception. 

Jay and his colleagues found that people who could come up with more swear words actually had a more expansive vocabulary in general. 

“Taboo or ‘swear word’ fluency is positively correlated with overall verbal fluency,” he told Medical Daily. “The more words you generated in one category meant the more words you generated in another category, orally and verbally. It’s part of your emotional intelligence to know how and when to use these words,” he said. 

9) The idea of freezing cold showers doesn’t frazzle you 

We’ve all heard of how taking cold showers is a great way to get that power jolt first thing in the morning. 

According to a study from Finland, “adaptation to cold water was associated with a significant decrease in tension and fatigue, and an improvement in mood and memory.”

The study said that cold showers not only boosts brain function and productivity, but having the courage to do so shows a willingness to step outside of your comfort level—something intelligent people make a practice of doing. 

10) You might dedicate some time to doodling  

Doodling—commonly characterized as a child’s pastime—is actually a “mode d’emploi” of some of the smartest people. 

Sunni Brown, who wrote The Doodle Revolution, says that doodling is a thinking tool that can affect the processing of information and problem-solving. 

Turns out, doodlers are able to recall 29 percent more information, according to a study that was done in the United Kingdom, says Reader’s Digest

“Scribbling mindlessly has a benefit for memory, and also gives the brain a visual way to express concepts and emotions.”

According to The Doodle Revolution, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and JFK all doodled regularly. 

“Like virtually all heavy-hitting thinkers, they looked beyond just words and numbers to get intellectual and creative insights.”

Excuse us while we go find a pen and pad. 

Picture of Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur is a Toronto-based journalist whose work has been published by The Globe & Mail, ELLE USA, ELLE Canada, British Vogue, Town & Country, and others.

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