Updated: Apr 29, 2020
There is no doubt that technology has brought some amazing positive changes to how we live, connect and engage with the world but is being connected all the time actually good for your health and wellbeing?
Being connected and distracted all the time can in fact become a driving habit that wires your brain to seek distraction. As your brain becomes used to distractions, you will notice how challenging and uncomfortable it feels when you are forced to wait and be in the moment. while your brain may seek distractions, it doesn’t mean being switched on all the time is good for your brain or wellbeing. Your brain actually needs spaciousness to work optimally. It has limited ability to notice, remember and store information. The more you fill the pauses in your day with updates, news and information, the more your brain becomes overwhelmed, leading to brain fatigue or “brain drain”. Signs that you may be experiencing brain drain include forgetfulness, headaches, trouble sleeping, difficulty focusing on one task at a time and feeling agitated and restless. You may feel “tired but wired”, the sensation of being exhausted yet struggling to switch off and calm your busy mind. It is believed that the brain thinks more clearly when it is seemingly doing nothing. Moments of nothingness allow your brain to recharge. Do you regularly give your mind space to reflect? What has become second nature to you when you think about your digital habits? Do you pick up your phone as soon as you have to wait for something? Do you check Instagram as soon as you wake up? Do you scroll through Facebook while at the gym? Do you take your phone to the toilet? Do you check emails in ad breaks while watching TV? What you do repeatedly becomes an automatic habit, wiring your brain in a certain way. If each time you have a moment of stillness you fill it with more stimulation, you are training your brain to need distraction, making it hard to just “be”. To create spaciousness in your brain you may need to hardwire in new habits and associations. Dr Sandra Bond Chapman in her book Make Your Brain Smarter has the following suggestions : Reflect – on your digital habits. Identify those that help you and those that hinder your progress. What would you like to change? Limit – consider cutting back on how much time you spend online each day. Enjoy a screen free day each week. Put your phone away at least an hour before bed. Boundaries – turn notifications off or set to Do Not Disturb mode so you can be present at certain times during your day. Leave your phone at home when you go for a walk. Detox – consider a social media detox week each month to disconnect and turn your attention back to your own life and goals. Mindfulness – when you find yourself waiting for something during the day, resist the urge to pick up your phone. Instead, spend 5 minutes being mindful. Notice your surroundings, scan your body to check in and see how you are feeling. Take a few deep breaths, exhaling through your mouth. Close your eyes and be still for a moment. Silence – to create fewer stimuli for your brain to process, turn off background noises and enjoy some moments of silence in your day. Schedule – be intentional about creating space in your mind and life. Purpose – choose a project that excites you to reinvest your newfound time. Seeing what you can achieve by switching off will be motivation in itself! I know that I need to seriously consider many of these suggestions. I am absolutely a serial phone-picker-uperer whenever I need to wait anywhere. I will often be tri-screening at night pretending that I am being social watching TV with the hubby whilst working on my computer and checking my phone as well. I make lots of excuses. “ I run two online businesses. I need to be available. I don’t have time during the day. “ What it really boils down to is that I need to set boundaries. And I need to stick to them. Boundaries for myself and others. What I do know, is that one of my favourite times of day is the 5 minutes I spend before bed – sitting on the couch by myself, with the TV off, with no one else there to talk to me. It’s silent. It’s still. I can stop and reflect about the day that has been. My hubby doesn’t get it. He will often walk back out and ask what I am doing just sitting there. My answer is normally – just thinking. But deep down that’s a lie. I think I am actually just doing – nothing. And I like it. How do you fair on the spacious mind front?