The saying ‘hot headed’ typically describes people who are quick tempered. However, it turns out that having a short fuse is not the only issue people struggle with when their temperature is rising!

If you live on a seasonal continent such as Canada and just entered the summer months, you are probably enjoying more time outdoors, less clothing, and lighter meals.

While there are many reasons to adore a warmer climate, many of us will also notice that our brain power and attitude may become somewhat challenged!

In fact, research suggests that even a slight increase in temperature can impair our ability to think effectively, to make complex decisions, and to change our patterns of thinking.

Have you noticed that during the summer, you get a little sluggish at work?

Perhaps you:

  • Give up earlier on a problem solving task
  • Default into familiar options, instead of being creative
  • Take the route of least resistance
  • Make more mistakes
  • Head to happy hour earlier than usual

This is in contrast to cooler weather, which enables you to work harder and weigh your options so you can choose the best one, no matter how cognitively complex the decision is.

One of the body’s most important tasks is temperature regulation. It’s wired to our survival.

This becomes obvious for students, especially in class rooms that are not air-conditioned, in which they need to focus on learning new information and skills.

As the warmer months set in and the temperature outside rises, they have a harder time finding the energy and motivation to concentrate.

This may be, in part, because they’d rather be engaging in outdoor activities than sitting in a classroom. However, research shows that people perform better cognitively and have greater decision-making skills in cooler environments compared to hotter environments.

Our brain is an organ and requires energy to function properly.

Almost everything we do, whether it’s a physical activity or a mental process, uses the same energy source: glucose. We use glucose as we walk, talk, breathe, and perform daily life actions.

We also use glucose when we perform mental functions that take a lot of effort, such as making decisions, exerting self-control, suppressing emotional responses, and solving math problems.

An important task of the body is temperature regulation. Our internal thermostat is linked to our survival gauges and mechanisms; so temperature homeostasis always takes precedence over higher order thinking and people’s bodies use a lot of energy to maintain a healthy internal temperature.

Cooling the body down actually requires more energy than warming it up.

Researchers, Amar Cheema of the University of Virginia and Vanessa M. Patrick of the University of Houston, were curious about the effects of temperature on our thinking skills so they tested the link between weather and complex decision-making by performing a series of experiments in a lab comparing participants’ cognitive performance at two seemingly unremarkable temperatures: 67° and 77° Fahrenheit.

People tend to be most comfortable around 72° Fahrenheit. So 67° or 77° was just a 5 degree deviation from maximum comfort. Despite this minimal deviation in temperature, the researchers found remarkable differences in cognitive functioning.

In one lab study, participants were asked to proofread an article while they were in either a warm (77°) or a cool (67°) room.

Participants in warm rooms performed significantly worse than those in cool rooms, failing to identify almost half of the grammatical and spelling errors. Those in cool rooms, on the other hand, only missed a quarter of the mistakes. These results suggest that even simple cognitive tasks can be adversely affected by excessive warmth.

These results do not mean that people in warmer climates are reliably prone to making poorer decisions than those in cooler environments. Humans are adaptive and given time are capable of acclimatizing and performing just as well in sweltering heat, frigid cold, or a climate-controlled office.

Nonetheless, a slight deviation in temperature from our expected norm does make a significant difference that we may not realize.

These deviations are common parts of our lives —the warmth of our homes and offices fluctuate throughout the day, as well as in stores and restaurants.

Of course, temperatures outdoors vary not just from day to day but from hour to hour and even minute to minute. Each of these minor changes in temperature may have important implications for our ability to think clearly and make decisions, especially when we are unaware of these effects.

With Brain Fitness training you can build your awareness muscles so you know when external factors such as temperature are having an affect on you, or when you are becoming low in your energy reserves. This will allow you to replenish with proper fuel and get some micro bursts of integrative movement to create internal temperature control.

This will move you from being hot headed, to clear headed!

To your Fit Brain & Fit Life,