There’s something about summer that really helps our brains turn to mush. We quickly go from coffee-fueled brains to brainless (borderline) alcoholism. It’s important to keep that brain from sleeping all summer long if you want to get through the next semester. The same goes for recent graduates. First you relish the break from thinking, but suddenly, around mid-summer, it’s like your addled brain is on steroids. You start to realize that you actually miss learning, and you worry that your brain is going to simply fizzle out and give up if you don’t start challenging it soon. Well, here are 6 great ways to keep your brain in the game so you don’t forget how to think.

1. Read Intelligent Books

You can indulge yourself in Fifty Shades while soaking up the sun, I won’t judge, but be sure to mix in a few smart reads–both fiction and nonfiction–as well. We’re talking Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Mary Roach’s Stiff, Machiavelli’s The Prince, and even Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. And if you really want to stay sharp and be smart at the same time, you can do a little research on your fall classes, and get ahead by reading those books too!

2. Listen to Worthwhile Podcasts

There are a lot of free and paid podcasts on iTunes, and many of them are great for getting your brain buzzing. You can learn a language, listen to opinion pieces, or even stream insane-but-true stories from NPR. This is a great way to get out of your own internal rhetoric and listen to someone else’s voice for a while. Plus, you might learn a thing or two!

3. Have a Chat

I don’t know what you have to do to get philosophical, but go do it, and then have a conversation. There is really no better way to get your brain functioning at a higher level than by having a meaningful conversation. If your friends aren’t interested and your parents are too busy, head over to the library or local Barnes and Noble and find that ubiquitous group of old men who are always debating a variety of topics. Even if you’re too scared to join in, just listen to what they have to say, and reflect or write about it!

4. Work Out

Studies show us that happy bodies make happy minds, so go for a run, or spend an hour in a yoga class. You’ll be surprised how much happier and healthier your mind will be. Better yet, load those podcasts onto your iPod and take a jog in the park. Two birds, one stone. Go you!

5. Watch/Read the Headlines

I won’t go so far as to tell you to go watch the news, but you should certainly follow some worldwide current events. You don’t want to wake up to some crazy madness on Friday morning, only to realize that you’re 3 days late to the game anyway. A great resource is TheWeek.com, which compiles varying opinions on the top stories of the week. This way you’re able to see different sides of the same story, without suffering through the verbosity of fighting news anchors on Fox and CNN. Plus, then you’ll be in the know this fall!

6. Write

Poems. Short Stories. Blogs. Novels. Love Letters. Whatever. Just write. Write a to-do list, and then try to write it in another language. Make your grocery list into a Dr. Seuss poem. Write an email that you never plan to send. Start a blog. It doesn’t really matter, but as long as you’re writing and creating, your brain is doing something, and that’s all you really need over the summer.

Photo Credit: Kym Ellis