Brain Bulletin #72 - 7 Reasons Why Your Brain Loves Summer

in Brain Bulletin

Your brain loves summer. Here are 7 reasons why this is probably true:

1. You eat differently. Portions usually get smaller. No one want 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 vegetable are fresh and abundant during the summer. Eat lots of them. Try replacing one meal a day with a smoothie. My favorite: 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 makes 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 mostly 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 you brain is dehydrated. Try following this formula one cup (240 ml.) of water for every 25 lbs. (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. You 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 your 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 to play or relax. 

Congratulations on learning something about your brain today. The Brain Bulletin is committed to help to do just that. If you missed any Brain Bulletins you can find them in the Brain Bulletin Archive: Brain Bulletin Archive

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Twitter is a great way to learn and fuel your brain. I just posted a great 2 min. video: The Smoke Filled Room Study. A great example of "The Bystander Effect" and your brain.

I will be posting, or tweeting as it's called, regularly about the brain. What I'm reading, watching, thinking, doing....all as it relates to your brain. Twitter restricts tweets to 140 characters, so it is always quick and to the point. No time wasting!

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My brain has had a busy 2 months. Highlights include keynoting the Ontario Board of Funeral Services annual conference in Toronto, and then on to Halifax to speak at MDA Corp. I went to Las Vegas to keynote the Hitachi Global Sales Kickoff. From there to Switzerland to speak at the High Performance Leadership Conference at IMD. I took a one week brain break in Portugal. The highlight was port tasting in Porto. Evora was great too. I then headed off to China to speak at TEDxGreatWall. Plus, lot of local talks in British Columbia.

Best of of all, now it's summer and my brain is happy. Most of my work now until the end of August will be with schools and universities. I especially enjoy working with students. I also plan to improve my tennis game.

My favorite book this month: "Willful Blindness" by Margaret Heffernan. Why we ignore the obvious at our peril. The book was "eye-opening".