6 Sneaky Ways to Stay Smart Over the Summer!

Just because school’s letting out, that doesn’t mean you get to stash your brain in a locker all summer. But keeping your brain cells sharp doesn’t have to be a drag. Right here, we show you how to have fun with it.

1. Play video games.
More and more studies are showing that playing action-based video games results in various levels of enhanced brain functioning, such as speeding up your ability to process information. Need a suggestion? A Game of Thrones: Genesis requires strategic thinking and not so much shooting and splatting. Really challenge your level of thinking by deciphering the symbolism and metaphors in the game’s storyline.

2. Make music.
Research also shows that music helps your brain develop, boosting savvy in language, reading, math and cognition. This includes singing, playing an instrument and even listening to music. So take a lesson this summer … or just crank up your playlist!

3. Read for … pleasure.
Tired of all that required reading? We hear ya! But don’t shy away from your local library or bookstore just because school’s out. Lots have summer programs with fun activities and freebies! Browse the shelves for something you want to read. Try picking up a few comic books. Or delve into something that’s more heavy-duty but still fun, such as The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel six-book series by Michael Scott.

4. Solve puzzles.
While you’re at the bookstore, pick up a few Sudoku or crossword puzzle books to toss into your beach bag. Word and number games are great for keeping yourself in check. Or try other brainteasers, such as search-and-seek games, scrambles and mazes. Old-school board games such as Scrabble and chess keep you on your toes too. And, yes, even jigsaw puzzles!

5. Play a sport.
According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, high school girls who play sports get better grades and are more likely to graduate. (Bonus: They also have higher self-esteem, lower levels of depression and more positive body images!) So sign up for a summer league or work on perfecting your swan dive at the swimming pool.

6. Be chill.
Up until now, we’ve talked about exercising the brain, but it’s also important to consistently take time-outs to still the mind for balance. And when school resumes in the fall, if you continue to practice plenty of quiet time, it will reduce test anxiety and improve test performance. (We can see those straight A’s already.) So find a spot in the park or even your backyard and do this exercise, recommended by the Institute of HeartMath, for getting centered:

a) Place your attention around your heart, putting your hand over that area of your chest.
b) Now pretend to breathe in and out of your heart, taking three slow breaths.
c) Think of something that makes you feel happy, and then shine that happy feeling to the whole world. Hold this feeling for as long as you like.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/danez