These days, our creative energies flow out of us directly into a computer. But the ever-increasing connectivity may be taking a toll on our brain health. I, for one, sit down at the keyboard every morning, spending most of my daytime in front of the unnatural glow of a monitor listening to my favorite productivity music. But I’m afraid that this kind of routine is getting in the way of my creativity. And I don’t want that.
The key may be interacting more with the world. For example, taking a break from the screens around you and having a face-to-face conversation seems to be incredibly beneficial for your brain. Spending just 10 minutes talking to a friend can help improve your memory and your performance, according to a study by the University of Michigan.
So I wondered: how can I nurture my brain as much as I nourish my body? Or at least – what habits cause cognitive decline and how can I stop them?
Too Much Sitting
Every week new papers come out reconfirming the benefits of physical activity on our brains. According to a new study, being sedentary changes the way our neurons work, increasing the chance of a heart attack. And it has now been demonstrated that an active lifestyle improves measures of memory, attention, and language ability in every age group (even by an astounding 1,800 percent in seniors).
Regular physical activity can benefit you both medically and cognitively. You know this though, don’t you? The problem here is the application of the relevant knowledge that you already have. Which leads me to my second point.
Too Much Information
“Information overload is one of the biggest irritations in modern life”, writes Schumpeter of The Economist.
Can we do anything remotely useful with the weather forecast of Minsk, Belarus if we’re not going to be there for the foreseeable future?
Sometimes, less is more. More practically, use better tools to filter information throughout your day. Be proactive about how you consume media and ignore unnecessary information. “When we continually overload the system by trying to store too much in working memory, the brain loses some of its processing power,” says Dr. Kenneth Freundlich of Morris Psychological Group.
Too Much Screen Time
Spending the majority of your waking hours looking at a screen almost always means that you have a problem.
Let me get this straight. I love my phone. It helps me access viewpoints and worldviews I might not otherwise experience.
But too much screen time can change your brain functionality. It’s called neuroplasticity. Your brain adapts to the environment. Any activity that you’re engaging in for three hours or more per day is rewriting your brain’s circuitry. With screen addiction, your brain is losing volume. Cognitive signals are slowed down to the point that your abilities to plan, prioritize, and manage impulses are significantly affected.
If you are concerned about the health of your brain, right now is time to take action. A few simple changes to your lifestyle will lead to lasting improvements to the quality of your thinking.