Why Summer Boosts Our Brain Activity
Longer days, bonfires on the beach, vacations with family and friends – what’s not to love about summer? There’s no denying that we feel happier and more energized this time of year, but did you know that you are also smarter in summer? Scientists have discovered that summer is the season when our brains reach their peak performance.
According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers found that brain activity, specifically attention and concentration, is at its highest during the summer solstice and lowest during the winter solstice.
In the study, Gilles Vandewalle and Christelle Meyer of the University of Liege in Belgium, examined the cognitive brain functions of 28 Belgians during each season of the year.
Participants spent about four and a-half days in a lab, with no access to the outside world or knowledge of seasonal cues such as daylight and darkness. Then while performing various cognitive tasks, researchers scanned the participants’ brains to gauge their ability to sustain attention, process and retain information.
Their results showed the brain activity linked with sustaining attention was highest in June and lowest in December.
Why the brain is most active during summer
Researchers believe the change in brain activity may be the result of evolution. Our ancestors were very attuned to the seasons because it was necessary for their survival.
“Humans were very dependent on season a few thousand years ago so it is not surprising to see seasonality in humans as in most species,” said Dr Vandewalle.
During harvest when there was an abundance of food, the higher brain functions, such as working memory, were needed for reasoning and learning. As the brain requires a great deal of energy to function, it makes sense from an evolutionary perspective that the brain conserves more of its energy during the winter months.
Summer: create a new habit or learn something new
As our attention peaks in summer, we should take advantage! I’ve compiled a list of what I want to accomplish this summer with the hope that one or two things might inspire you.
1. Take a yoga class outdoors.
I’ve always practiced yoga as a way to relax my mind and body. Now that the weather is getting warm, it’s time to do yoga al fresco! Think about how peaceful it will be to stare out at the landscape in tree pose with a cool breeze hitting your face.
2. Read more.
Nothing beats relaxing on the beach as much as getting lost in a good book. It’s my escape from reality. Reading has taught me about life, love, people, science, history – you name it. I believe reading is a tool we need, not only for knowledge, but for growth and self-esteem.
3. Go paddle boarding.
I tried it a few years back and fell in love with it. My goal is to hit the water more often this year – just my board and me; it’s meditation on the water.
4. Spend more quality time with my kids.
Summer is a time for me to balance the “mom” in working mom. When my kids are out of school, it’s my turn to spend time having fun and bonding with them.
5. Get organized.
Many people view clutter as an enemy to be battled, and avoid it at all costs. I, on the other hand, look at de-cluttering as an exercise in letting go, of freeing myself. It’s a wonderful opportunity to create space for something new.
The demands of our jobs can be overwhelming. There’s always so much to do. I work hard, but when summer comes around I cut back, put down the phone and hit the outdoors. Summer is my time for a digital detox.