As the summer season has arrived (at least if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere), and with the lifting of pandemic restrictions due to increased vaccination and lower infection rates in many areas, here are five things your brain looks forward to in this time of year — without clueing you in on how important these activities are to your brain’s health.
We all know it can be hot in the summer. When it’s hot, we want to drink. Water. Lots of it. The brain loves water almost as much as it loves oxygen. That’s because the brain is 85% water — and you can hardly ever have too much of it. Water helps us learn better (even if it’s summer!), stay alert (for summer fun), feel energetic and healthy. Most importantly, drink before you’re thirsty, because thirst indicates you’re already slightly dehydrated. Drink eight to 10 glasses of water a day, throughout the day.
When the sun is out early, we like to be up early too — and out of the house. It’s not hard to take long walks, bike rides, or runs in the park when the weather is cooperating. That’s why in the summer we tend to get more exercise, which is not only good for the body but for the brain as well. Exercises such as walking increase blood circulation, and thus increase the oxygen and glucose that reach your brain. Exercise produces such chemicals as dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin, which help stabilize moods and prevent anxiety and depression. Exercise three to four days a week for at least 30 minutes.
3. Long, Lazy Summer Evenings
When it’s cold and dark in the winter, we often head inside early and cuddle up on the couch to watch a movie. But when the sun stays out late, we do too. These longer stretches of time seem to stretch out our brains as well, as we take up projects we have been putting off, such as reading the classics, learning a new language, or building that electric car we ordered in the mail. The brain creates new neurons (known as “neurogenesis”) when we learn and use our memory. Tackle a new summer project that challenges your brain.
4. Lighter Foods
Who wants to feel heavy in the summer? All those carbohydrates we packed away like bears in hibernation during the winter just slow us down in summer. That’s why people tend to eat smaller portions and lighter foods in the summer. A low-calorie diet has been shown to prolong life. In the summer, because we eat more healthy and light fruit and vegetables, the brain tends to get the proper balance of nutrients, including protein and sugar. Just beware of barbecues! Start your morning with a healthy yogurt fruit shake.
In the summer we tend to have more time for our families and friends. Socializing is more than just good fun. Research has shown that establishing and maintaining strong social networks and support groups is good for your health and happiness. For older people, having larger social networks can reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive impairment, as a longitudinal study published in PLOS Medicine determined. Deep conversation, more than superficial chitchat, provides more brain stimulation, and according to research published in Psychological Science, is also better for your well-being. Take time to share with family and friends.
This article is updated from its initial publication in Brain World Magazine’s print edition.