The second that temperatures start to rise again and the sun comes out, you'll either find me outside doing anything and everything to keep my body moving, or feeling extremely motivated to work on creative projects in the comfort of my air conditioning.
After a long winter cooped up in the house, the first sign of spring weather is an invitation to get outside and get active, or at least do something other than staring into the great Netflix abyss under warm covers.
Of course, I also totally understand the trying rut of a summer slump when it's almost too hot to do anything but camp out under the A.C. vent and drown yourself in scoops of ice cream.
Regardless of whether or not you want to venture outside, it's important to keep your brain stimulated through the summer fog.
Here are a few ways you can make sure your brain stays busy during this sweltering season.
There is a beautiful reservoir just shy of 20 minutes from my apartment.
When the weather is comfortable, my husband and I go on long-winded hikes up the mountains, exploring different trails, and stopping to admire waterfalls and the tranquility of nature.
One of us will bring our phone for safety purposes, but other than that, disconnecting from technology to reconnect with nature doesn't just feel soothing -- it can stimulate your brain.
A 2012 cognitive study showed that exposure to nature can restore your ability to problem-solve and get creative, as opposed to the time spent fiddling with technology that, in actuality, may be compromising those skills.
2. Whitewater Rafting
For the extremist in search of a thrill, there's nothing like being out on a raft dodging rough rapids.
Aside from the intense adrenaline rush, these kinds of activities require your full attention, as well as the ability to think fast and problem-solve.
Prior to working in the city, I had never considered walking to be a particularly rigorous exercise. Why walk when you could run?
But, to my surprise, walking can actually do quite a number on your brain.
Stanford University researchers performed four studies back to back in 2014, the results of which connected walking with creative inspiration.
Marily Oppezzo, a Stanford doctoral graduate in educational psychology, told Standford News
We're not saying walking can turn you into Michelangelo, but it could help you at the beginning stages of creativity.
Similarly to how great ideas can spark in the shower, taking long walks along a beach, a forest trail, around your neighborhood, or even inside the parameters of your own apartment complex will jolt your creative juices.
4. Learning A Second Language
If you aren't really the outdoorsy type, there are plenty of brain-training activities that can be done in the comfort of your own home.
One of the most compelling is taking up a new language, which can help you become a more conscious thinker and listener, in addition, of course, to gaining a more global perspective on the world.
While you could absolutely head over to the library and skim through textbooks to learn a new language, there's actually an app for that (isn't that always the case?).
Normally, I'd encourage you all to step away from your cell phones and get some damn vitamin C, but my husband picked up both Spanish and Swedish with the help of Duolingo, so needless to say it's the real deal.
With more than 20 languages to choose from, the more you practice, the more you learn and advance through the course, which gauges your proficiency level after each lesson.
How's that for a summer project?
5. Solving Puzzles
Whether you fancy a jigsaw puzzle, a crossword puzzle, or even Sudoku, the problem-solving skills required for these activities will train your brain, and you'll have fun while you do it.
Plus, as with just about anything, the more puzzles you solve, the better you'll get at them.
6. Read Everything and Anything
Take recommendations from your family and friends, and create a reading list for the summer.
Pick up a volume you'd normally pass on your way to the YA section of Barnes and Noble, or create a Feedly profile and read through some articles that pique your interest.
Not only can frequent reading physically alter how your brain works and processes language, it can also improve your vocabulary, and even improve your mood.
7. Practice Yoga
Yoga is an amazing option for anyone who doesn't really enjoy going to a traditional gym.
It requires limited equipment, and you can practice yoga virtually anywhere.
Although there's no denying its many physical benefits, yoga also encourages mental stability.
In fact, the only reason I began my own yoga journey was to quiet my thoughts and relieve stress.
The exercise itself is considered a body-mind movement, in which both the physical and mental state are worked through.
By focusing on the breath and structure of each pose, it becomes easier to tune out the world and focus solely on yourself.
One of the best ways to improve your brain functionality is to, first and foremost, control and calm it.
The rest is smooth sailing, my friend.