Mental wellbeing: hit the reset buttonKarina Stewart - Kamalaya
Karina Stewart explains how modern technology is taking control of our lives - and with us allowing it in, the drastic affects it can have on our health.
I recently read an article in the New York Times that really hit home and re-ignited the conversation that often comes up in so many of my conversations when talking about the causes and effects of stress, adrenal burnout and sleep imbalances.
Journalist Daniel J. Levitin of the New York Times writes, “Many will take time off from work to go on vacation, catch up on household projects and simply be with family and friends. And many of us will feel guilty for doing so. We will worry about all of the emails piling up at work, and in many cases continue to compulsively check email during our precious time off. But beware the false break. Make sure you have a real one. A vacation is more than a quaint tradition. Along with family time, mealtime and weekends, it is an important way that we can make the most of our beautiful brains.”
The article goes on to talk about the effects of mobile communications, media and social media in particular, and how every day we are assaulted with a constant stream of “facts, pseudo facts, news feeds and jibber-jabber coming from all directions. According to a 2011 study, on a typical day, we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information, five times as much as we did in 1986.”
Levitin sums up by saying, “If you’re feeling overwhelmed, there’s a reason: the processing capacity of the conscious mind is limited.” He goes on to discuss the fine balance between the task-positive and task-negative networks within the brain. “Task-positive being active when you’re actively engaged in a task, focused on it, and undistracted. In contrast, the task-negative network is active when your mind is wandering; this is the daydreaming mode. It’s in this brain state that our minds can connect disparate ideas and thoughts, enabling moments of greatest creativity and insight, when we’re able to solve problems that previously have seemed unsolvable. These two attention networks operate like a seesaw in the brain: when one is active the other is not.”
For me, this is the key point and whilst technology has evolved and developed beyond recognition in the last 20 years, the human brain hasn’t. Biologically and physiologically our brains are the same as those of our grandparents’ generation and yet we use them so differently and expect them to process so much more information. This constant need to be connected through social media and texts creates an imbalance – a shift away from Levitin’s task-negative ‘mind-wandering’ brain-state towards the highly engaged task-positive – even during our relaxation or down-time.
Not only does this shift interfere with the balance within our brains but it can also affect our innate body rhythms – our stress levels and sleeping patterns. The constant stimulation competes with resources in our brains and takes our attention and time away from the important stuff in our lives. This is a vital reminder of the importance to take conscious time away from the daily distractions of mobile communications and social media, to connect with nature and ourselves and to encourage our brains into that wonderful mind-wandering state of mind.
Happy day dreaming…
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