Dreams have meaningmarina shin/Shutterstock
Why we dream has been the source of speculation for centuries. Although we’re not sure, many scientists now think dreams help us process emotions and events that happen during our waking hours. “The entire brain is active during dreams—the visual cortex, which creates images, and the limbic system, which deals with emotions, are especially active during dreams,” Dr. Shane says. Brain activity during dreaming increases to the same level as when we are awake, he says, and can be stimulated by what you experienced during the day. “Dreams then make associations with other experiences you have had, helping you integrate what you learned during the day,” Dr. Shane says. “Dreams can help you solve problems and increase your ability to cope with struggles and stress.” In addition, the freedom of control in dreams allows them to be more creative than waking thoughts. Learn why dreaming could ward off dementia.
Sex on the brain is a good thinglimonstrik/Shutterstock
As if you needed another excuse to get it on, sex may actually help your brain think better as you age. Animal research has shown that sexual activity improved mental performance and the production of new cells in the area of the brain responsible for memory. A new study in humans found that older adults who were sexually active scored better on cognitive tests than those who weren’t. Sex may also reduce anxiety and depression, and help you sleep, which benefits brain health as well, and this recent study showed that having sex once a week can even help you live longer. Find out why sex could make you smarter, too.
Your brain thinks better after a vacationNicoElNino/Shutterstock
Don’t feel guilty about taking time off from work—studies show that vacations actually help you to be more productive. “Our brains are not machines that can work endlessly without a glitch,” says psychologist Deborah Serani, PsyD, author of Depression in Later Life and a professor at Adelphi University. “This is why it’s important to give yourself downtime, to allow your brain to rest, reboot, and return to functioning anew. Doing so allows the regulatory systems of your brain chill out.” Science backs this up: A review of research confirmed that downtime is necessary for mental processing.