Vacation lowers your IQ
Summer is my favorite season and it’s the time of the year known for vacations. It’s up to us how to spend them – but most of us, at least in the northern hemisphere end up soaking in a lot of sun. Research shows that downtime, especially in hot places and especially with the intake of alcohol can make you dumber. The explanation is that inactivity in combination with dehydration reduces the amount of oxygen going to the brain which in its turn lowers our IQ as much as by 20 points. This information is based on the study by the specialists in mental performance at the University of Erlangen in Germany.
What does it mean to us? Does it mean that omitting our much-deserved vacation is the only alternative to getting dumber by the minute? We cannot skip vacations because addiction to work can cost us dearly in burnout and other effects detrimental to our health and well-being. Staying hooked up to work emails during the holidays is not a desirable option either. Here are some tips recommended by scientists for keeping our brains active during our off time:
Counting is good for memory
One of the recommended exercises is counting backward from 100 to 1, or better yet, counting backward by threes – such as 100, 97, 94, etc. If you are not a numbers person, you can word chain where each new word starts with the last letter of the previous word or any variation of this game. Many people like crossword puzzles. But if you are really good at solving those puzzles routinely, Russian psychologist Maria Falikman does not recommend relying on them for training your brain. If you find yourself ready to spew out the capital of Uruguay at any given moment, she warns, your brain must have saturated with the crossword puzzles and you are already accustomed to the underlying principle behind all of them. In this case, they are no longer serving you as a tool to keep your brain sharp.
Drawing is like fitness for the brain.
During the normal course of life, we mainly work with symbols such as numbers and letters. When we draw, on the other hand, we get those parts of our brain busy that are responsible for holding and transforming images. This way we unleash our creativity and improve our spatial awareness. Just like we go to the gym to exercise those muscles that get otherwise overlooked, drawing becomes a special fitness for our brain. Unless of course, you are an artist, who already draws for a living.
Scientists tell us that learning new languages is great for exercising memory and creating new connections in it. I can’t tell that I spend my downtime with textbooks in my hands, but I do use vacations for practicing my foreign language skills learning from the locals, wherever I find myself . You don’t have to ace an entire new language – I usually find that people are grateful for any amount of effort you put in speaking their language. I myself get very excited when I see a foreign individual trying to learn any of my languages.
Numerous sources confirm that playing chess exercises your brain by unleashing your creativity, strategic thinking and problem-solving powers in an ever-changing setting. All of the above is what we need at work, so keeping these skills sharp will keep you in a good mental shape, ready to take on any work challenges upon your return to your place of business.
The good news is – to play this ancient game on your vacation you don’t have to lug around a box of chess figures or be stuck at the computer screen due to the lack of game partners. These days things are made easier, more social and more interesting as more and more large cities introduce large chess sets on public boards outdoors where there is no lack of opponents, supporters or even spectators. I took this photo of the chess set on the Seaside Boulevard in Baku Azerbaijan during my visit this summer.
By no means, you have to limit yourself to the above activities. You may find many other interesting and fun ways to keep your brain sharp and your IQ high while enjoying a mojito in a swim-up bar on your next getaway. Please share in the comments what you like to do in order to keep yourself sharp while getting the much-deserved rest from your normal work routine.