The pandemic has driven us online – working, shopping, entertaining, and catching up with friends and family -- all deepening our dependency on technology. We are glued to our screens for work all day, then connecting with close ones through video conferencing in the evenings. Watch a little Netflix, rinse, repeat.
In this conversation from June 2019, Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, a physician and brain scientist at Duke University, shared some good insights, all made even more relevant in the current Zoom-ified world.
Listen here: Technology is disrupting the brain
Is tech rewiring our brains? Dr. Doraiswamy, says there’s cause for concern: an estimated 8%-10% of North Americans show signs of serious internet or gaming addiction. But he’s still a techno-optimist. Thanks to its neuroplasticity, the human brain can adjust. The key is to balance our screen time and our time in the real world.
Five things we can do today to keep our brains in prime operating condition.
1. Get Up From Your Desk
Everything seems urgent – but don’t sit in front of your computer for more than an hour at a time. It’s counterproductive. “We are constantly in a task-oriented mode,” Dr. Doraiswamy said. Get up and walk to a coffee shop. The break will help shift your brain from a task-orientation to a more creative/productive mode.
2. Go for a Walk in Nature
The best place to reset your brain is in nature. There you combine the trance-like state that walking puts you in, with the sense of tranquility. This contemplative time activates the part of the brain that allows you to unlock solutions to deep problems, and inspires a feeling of well-being.
3. Superglue your teenage daughter’s phone (or Son’s X-box) to the train tracks and wait for CN to make it all go away. Note: Forcing the child watch is optional.
(I made that one up.)
Everyone should be meditating for a minimum of 20 minutes a day, preferably outdoors. Start with an app, if that helps. Like walking, meditating activates the brain’s default mode network. It’s good for your brain in the long-run, too – studies show expert meditators have less age-relate deterioration.
5. Have a Good Conversation Every Day
The number one predictor of how long you’ll live isn’t your blood pressure; it’s your social connections. Every day, have a deep, meaningful conversation with a friend – not over Skype, but in person. These deep personal connections are vital for physical and psychological well-being. “Don’t mistake social media for what brings true meaning into your life,” Dr. Doraiswamy says.
6. Stop Checking Your Phone Before Bed
An hour before you go to bed, stop checking your phone. If you look at your phone just before going to sleep, your brain is still processing those last few emails for at least another 15-20 minutes. Research suggests that the blue light emitted by devices may interfere at night with our sleep cycles. Look at a book instead.