If you’ve been feeling a little less sharp than usual, it’s not you — it’s the climate. Columbia University scientists say that shifts in the weather can make the brain act up to four years older! Here’s how to recharge your batteries and get back to feeling like your old self in no time.
Sound the Alarm
You know you stashed that cozy sweater in your closet somewhere but now you can’t seem to find it. An easy way to track it down is to repeat the word “ding!” while you search. A study in Scientific Reports found that sounds associated with alarms activate the part of the brain that processes visual information, helping you to home in on what you’re looking for faster.
Have a Healthy Snack
Struggling to come up with an inventive fundraiser idea for your volunteer group? Snack on a bowl of mixed fruit or dive into a veggie platter. Fresh produce is packed with polyphenols, a class of antioxidants that dials back mood- and memory-hampering inflammation. By ingesting 1/2-cup serving of these foods, you’ll have up to five times more curiosity and three times more creativity, say researchers in the British Journal of Health Psychology.
Adopt an Alter Ego
A study in the journal PLOS ONE found that pretending to be someone imaginative, such as an eccentric artist or a free-spirited poet, can help you channel your own inner creativity. In fact, you’ll be significantly more likely to come up with out-of-the-box ideas.
Enjoy Some Peace and Quiet
Tackling the day’s to-do’s can be overwhelming when it seems like your brain is not firing on all cylinders. Luckily, popping in earplugs and enjoying 30 minutes of silence can boost your productivity by 67 percent, Cornell University researchers report. Their study showed that shutting out noisy distractions allows for better communication between the regions of the brain that are responsible for concentration, so you can breeze through any task with ease.
Brighten Up Your Day
When you’re stuck in a mental rut, try pulling up a photo of a bright rainbow on your cellphone or setting a pretty, colorful image as your computer background. Being exposed to vibrant hues lights up the area of the brain that fuels your mental energy, British investigators explain, helping you tackle tasks 25 percent faster — and more efficiently!
Shake Up Your Routine
Switch up your normal routine by sipping your morning cup of joe in your living room instead of your usual spot at the kitchen table or by following a different route to the dog park. By challenging yourself to break out of even small or simple routines, you’ll be encouraging the brain to churn out a focus-enhancing chemical called acetylcholine that British scientists report can sharpen your concentration by 45 percent in as little as 60 seconds.
Doodle Some Hearts
Sketching simple flowing shapes, like hearts or flowers, for 10 minutes has been shown to energize the brain’s prefrontal cortex, improving your attention by 32 percent.
Shifting Your Eyes
Good news: Brain blips and memory lapses don’t have to slow you down! To enhance your recall in as little as 30 seconds, slowly move your eyes from side to side. A study out of the UK’s Manchester Metropolitan University found that this simple trick “wakes up” both the right and left hemispheres of your brain and enhances communication between the two, improving your memory by 42 percent for one hour.
Sip Sage Tea
This earthy brew floods the body with antioxidants that can ease inflammation and boost the brain’s memory center. Researchers found that sipping just one mug daily can noticeably improve your ability to recall names, dates, and other details.
Let in a Breeze
Next time you’re struggling to make a choice, whether it’s simply what to make for dinner or something more complex, crack open your window for a minute. A study in the journal Cell found that ushering in a dose of cool, fresh air will prod your body to release a revitalizing brain chemical called gluatmine that enhances your reasoning skills, allowing you to make decisions 50 percent faster and easier.
Sleep on It
Waiting until morning can make tough decisions appear easier. The reason: The brain naturally favors a more logical approach to problems earlier in the day.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.