Have you ever thought about whether technology is damaging your brain? How do you feel when your phone doesn’t ring? What about when no one responds to your Facebook status or Tweets?  The internet is 25 years old and social media even more recent and yet it has changed the way we live. Now don’t get me wrong I love my tech as much as the next woman. However, on a family holiday over New Year we found ourselves in a cottage without wifi or mobile phone reception and it drove us mad! The end result of this was that whilst we had lovely evenings playing cards and chatting about what was on the T.V., each time we went out the first thing we did was get out our phones and check social media and for messages! However, is our reliance on technology good for us? Increasingly, we are hearing about some of the downsides of our digital world.

During the Rio Olympic Games, Great Britain’s women’s hockey team decided to undertake a team social media exile. Their goalkeeper, Maddie Hinch wrote, “You might have seen that we’re under a self-imposed break from social media which is a decision we made unanimously as a squad. The chance of winning Olympic gold only comes once every four years and we wanted to minimise potential distractions and be fully focused on the task at hand”. Based on the gold medal they achieved, I wonder how much this contributed to their success?

Recently, I participated in a productivity challenge and both the benefits and the downsides of technology were discussed by a number of small business owners. Technology allows me to coach clients all over the world without leaving my office and enables me to reach and serve more people. However, it also is addictive and if I am not careful, I could be communicating with people online over the various mediums both day and night! I’ve had to make a conscious choice to switch off the tech at a certain point during the evening to allow some wind-down time before bed.

Have you noticed that your hectic lifestyle prevents you from concentrating on one thing at a time and it can also make information retention much harder?

Introducing Digital Dementia

“Digital Dementia” is a term to describe how overuse of digital technology results in the breakdown of cognitive abilities in a way that is more often seen in people who have suffered a head injury or psychiatric illness. The concern is that individuals who rely heavily on technology may suffer a decline in short-term memory. The U.S. study blamed modern lifestyles for the problem; spending time on a computer and texting prevents people focusing and memorising information. Stress was also looked at as a potential cause of the damage.

In general, the advice appears to be, use it or lose it. The brain, just like a muscle in our body, can shrivel if not used and stretched. The good news is that it has some plasticity and so can be rewired.

8 Ways to stop technology damaging your brain.

Essentially, we need to be doing things that will lead to the healthy ‘rewiring’ of our brains. So here’s a list of 8 healthy things that might help you maintain good brain functioning.

  1. Use your memory. Retrieve information from your brain naturally – rather than using Google to look up that piece of information you can’t remember immediately, try to relax and let your brain find the information.
  2. Get offline. Stop messing around on entertainment and social sites. Social media and internet surfing are major time and energy wasters. If you don’t have the self-control to stay offline, unplug your connections, move your laptop somewhere without wi-fi and programme your phone to switch off at a set time each day. Reading a book rather than a tablet has been shown to improve memory retention.
  3. Declutter your mind. We cram our brains with online stuff, like dogs dressed in costumes and cats on treadmills but the danger is your brain clogs up with all this unimportant stuff. Regular meditation helps to clear out the noise and free up brain space.
  4. Avoid getting in a rut. Do something new or different every day, even if it’s just accomplishing the same tasks in a different order. Your brain loves new experiences and challenges, and this should pay off in a fresh mental outlook.
  5. Turn off. When your workday is finished; don’t switch from one screen to another. Instead, pick up a book, play cards, garden, dance, and play with your kids. Give your brain a break from the digital duties of the day, and activate your grey matter with real-life activities.
  6. Be more sociable, it is good for beating anxiety and depression. Reach out. Take the initiative, make the invitation, volunteer to help, throw the dinner party, or get involved in the community. Don’t wait for someone else to make the call. Start making relationships today for a happier, more fulfilling life.
  7. Learn a new language or play a musical instrument. Putting you outside your comfort zone helps your brain work harder, which makes you smarter. Instruments require the use of both side of the brain and so really challenge us.
  8. Get physical. Do something that changes your physiological state – take a walk, go for a run, dance! Exercise increases blood flow and accelerates the transport of vital nutrients to your brain.  Get your heart pumping.

So I am going to keep going with some of these and maybe get that Saxophone out of the loft!

What will you do? I would love to hear your comments below.