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As we continue to open up the discussion of mental health and all of its nuances, there’s a trending conversation around “intellectual wellness.” The concept brings attention to a dimension of wellness we may not have given as much credit to in decades past — the idea that creativity and challenging our minds can elevate our health, too. With that in mind, here are 10 iPhone apps (you can download some of them for Android, too) that can stimulate our brains. You know, since we’re not giving up our smartphones any time soon.

Cropped shot of a woman using a smartphone while relaxing on the sofa at home

Are you ready to boost your brainpower? Check out these 10 smartphone apps that will help you stay sharp!

10 Apps That Make You Smarter


Free (monthly upgrade starts at $9.99) | Apple and GooglePlay

This free app has been around for more than a decade, but it’s still steadily gaining fans. With over 30 languages available (including Klingon!), Duolingo helps you tailor a language program that fits your learning level and time commitment. It also offers you a chance to share why you’re choosing to learn a new language, be it cultural immersion, career opportunities, impending travel, or simply brain training. Those looking for intense language absorption can opt for 20 minutes of practice per day, while more casual learners can opt for as few as five minutes. The program even offers you an incentive to “grow your daily streak” with attainable goals such as hitting 21 days of consecutive learning.

A screenshot from the Duolingo app showing a French sentence translation.

Duolingo offers over 30 languages for cultural immersion, travel preparation, and more.


Free (monthly subscription starts at $15.99) | Apple

Lucid sifts through the “noise” of educational courses, quick-read articles, and even best-selling books and engages you with visual guides to help you master concepts. It offers individualized suggestions tailored to your interests and even helps to improve your reading speed. The app is a bit on the pricey side compared to others on the list, with subscription options starting at $15.99 a month, but it’s worth it if you’re looking to work on reading comprehension and retention. The subject options run the gamut, touching on topics from philosophy to government history and even a beginner’s guide to the stock market.

A screenshot of the Lucid app

Lucid can up your reading game with lessons to help you comprehend and retain text if you’re a visual learner.

RELATED: 5 Healthy Morning Routine Tips


Free | Apple and GooglePlay

We’re all familiar with the incredible TED talks that have introduced us to countless perspectives from some of the most inspirational, influential, brilliant minds of today. Whether you’re interested in delving into the science behind sleep cycles, how to predict the next financial crisis, the history of Egyptian tombs, or tips for building a better business, the TED app offers the chance to have all of it at your fingertips. You’ll discover thousands of talks in over 100 languages, with topics ranging from science and technology to self-help and productivity. Oh, and it’s free! Navigating the app is super easy — the only downside is getting so lost in all of the wonderful information that you lose track of time. Nevertheless, we encourage you to head down the rabbit hole!

A screenshot of the TEDtalk app.

You can listen to world-renowned speakers address everything from science to social change with the TED app.

Daily Random Facts

Free (monthly upgrades start at $2.99) | Apple and GooglePlay

It never hurts to add to your mental repository of random facts. (Trivia night, anyone?) Who doesn’t want to know that most elephants weigh less than the tongue of a blue whale or that the two most effective treatments for battling depression are exercise and spending time with pets? After all, knowledge is power. Whether you’re looking for the next perfect dinner party ice breaker or you just like having a well-rounded range of knowledge, Daily Random Facts is the app for you. You can glean interesting information on everything from the human body to life hacks to technology and history. Let the learning begin!

A screenshot of the Daily Random Fact app.

With the Daily Random Facts app, you’ll never run out of conversation starters again!

Word of the Day

Free (annual upgrades start at $9.99) | Apple and GooglePlay

Back in the day, we introduced new words into our vocabularies daily (remember making index cards for hundreds of SAT words like cacophony and prestidigitation?). But according to a study done by The Economist in 2013, researchers found that the average vocabulary of most adult native test-takers ranges from 20,000 to 35,000 words. Additionally, adult test-taker vocabulary growth essentially stops at middle age, but the Word of the Day app can improve those numbers. You can subscribe to receive your daily vocabulary fix, including word pronunciation and usage examples. (Of course, you can also consult our very own Grammar Guru for an additional peek at the nuances of the English language!)

A screenshot of the Word of the Day app featuring the word "Gourmand."

Thanks to Word of the Day, you can double your daily lexicon.

Lumosity Brain Training

Free (upgrades start at $11.99) | Apple and GooglePlay

The Lumosity Brain Training website motto is “Discover what your brain can do,” and they aren’t messing around. Since your brain has muscle memory, this app essentially keeps it fit. The scientifically designed games and performance tracking had us curious from the get-go. It’s simple and effective, training your attention span, memory, speed, problem-solving, and more. You’ll log a few facts to help narrow down your focus to the areas of brain training you’re interested in practicing. Once it calculates your baseline through a few initial cognitive games, you’re off to the races!

A screenshot of the Lumosity Brain Training app with a memory game.

Stretching your muscle memory is the name of the game with Lumosity Brain Training.

Headspace: Meditation and Sleep Made Simple

Free (monthly upgrades start at $12.99) | Apple and GooglePlay

If you’re looking for a way to manage your anxiety, achieve better sleep, or adopt a more focused and mindful approach to your day, the Headspace app accomplishes all of that and more. How is that making you more intelligent, you ask? Quality sleep is shown to improve brain function and a higher level of focus naturally translates to higher productivity levels. The app’s popularity started soaring in 2014, and it’s still going strong eight years later with an emphasis on the science behind meditation. They’ve even partnered with some of the most prestigious institutions, such as Harvard, NYU, and Carnegie Mellon, to conduct extensive meditation trials. The app begins by assessing your goals. After that, it walks you through proper breathing techniques and sets you up with a series of timed meditation courses that are manageable even if you only have five minutes to spare.

A screenshot from the Headspace app for meditation

From everyday stress to sleepless nights, many of us could use mindfulness practice. Headspace is an excellent solution for incorporating some meditation into your daily routine.

RELATED: The Case For Meditation: Why Everyone Should Try It

Today in History

$9.99 | Apple

Even if you aren’t a die-hard history buff, the Today in History app offers an intriguing glimpse into the past. It provides an easy-to-navigate list of iconic global events and includes fun facts, birthdays, deaths, holidays, and more. You can scroll through major headlines and images from decades ago, and re-absorb some of the world history you’ve forgotten!

A screenshot of the Today in History app on January 17

Find out what happened on this day in years past with the Today in History app.


Free (upgrades start at $5.99) | Apple and GooglePlay

If you’re craving an in-depth look at the world of art, the DailyArt app offers an easily digestible dose of it. Concentrating on one piece of artwork per day, from realism to abstract expressionism, you can learn about various creatives and their masterpieces. Read about the artist’s background, who they were influenced by, and the impact they made on society. The app also lists 360 museums in its database, so you can plan your next outing, dream of future travel plans, or find out which museums house the largest collections in the world.

A screenshot of the DailyArt app, featuring Elizabeth Peyton Stanton

Art lovers, rejoice! DailyArt offers a chance to learn about artists and their influential masterpieces.

The New York Times Crossword

Free (upgrades start at $6.99) | Apple and GooglePlay

Talk about exercising your brain muscles; The New York Times Crossword app will stretch your mind to the extreme. Test your knowledge with daily mini puzzles in varying degrees of difficulty. You can also peruse archived puzzle options, track your performance, and check your solve-time against friends on the leaderboards. If your brain feels taxed and you need a break from crosswords, you can also try your luck with the “spelling bee,” which tests how many words you can make with seven letters.

A screenshot of the New York Times Crossword app.

Geek out on some everyday wordplay thanks to the legendary New York Times crossword puzzles. It’s challenging; it’s entertaining; it’s awesome.

Good luck finding new and exciting ways to challenge your brain!


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