By TERRY SMALL
YOUR brain loves summer. Here are seven reasons why this is probably true:
1 You eat differently. Portions usually get smaller. No one wants to feel heavy in the summer. Calorie restriction turns out to be good for your brain and prolongs your life. You probably eat differently, too.
Fruits and vegetables are fresh and abundant during the summer. Eat lots of them. Try replacing one meal a day with a smoothie. My favourite: yogurt, frozen field berries, frozen banana, orange juice, protein powder, pure vanilla, and cinnamon.
2 You exercise more. Walks and bike rides are easier when the days are longer. The benefits are many. Your brain grows new neurons (neurogenesis). Blood circulation increases – this provides your brain with more oxygen and glucose.
You learn better and remember more. Your brain also produces dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline which simply make you feel good.
Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your brain. Try setting aside 20 minutes every day to get moving.
3 You drink more water. Summer is hot. When it’s hot you drink more water. Your brain is 85% water. When you are well hydrated you learn better and you have more energy. Water is needed to efficiently manufacture neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin and melatonin.
Hydration also improves your attention span. Water can prevent memory loss as we age, reducing the risk of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Getting enough water may be the single most important thing you can do to live a healthier life.
Make sure you drink water before you are thirsty. By the time you are thirsty your brain is dehydrated. Try following this formula one cup (240 ml) of water for every 11 kg of body mass. Carry a water bottle with you.
4 You are more social. In the summer you spend more time with family and friends. Your brain needs social connections. Spending time with people is a fundamental tenet of cognitive health.
The Journal of Public Health reports that having a larger social network can reduce your risk of dementia and cognitive impairment. Try to arrange and attend a few more social events than you normally do.
5 You read more. You have more time off in the summer and probably pick up a book or two. Reading wakes your brain up. Learning new things grows connections between your brain cells.
Scientists call this neural reserve. The more of it the better. Try reading something you normally wouldn’t pick up. If you always read novels, try a non-fiction book and vice versa.
6 You spend more time outdoors. Being outside is good for your brain. Richard Louv just wrote a book called The Nature Principle.
Essentially, he feels many of us suffer from a nature-deficit disorder. Getting outdoors seems to boost mental acuity and creativity. Your brain also appreciates the extra Vitamin D. Try taking up a hobby or activity that can only be done outdoors.
7 You relax. Things slow down in the summer. A little stress can help your brain focus. However, too much stress can literally make you stupid. Prolonged stress can be toxic to nerve cells in your hippocampus – impairing memory.
Relaxing makes your brain feel in control. In fact, deep relaxation can actually change your brain structure. Try blocking out a little more “white space” in your calendar just for you and your brain.
Congratulations on learning something about your brain today. The Brain Bulletin is committed to help to do just that. Always remember: “You are a genius!”