Nobody can argue with the fact that technology has made our lives easier in immeasurable ways. It helps keep our schedules and appointments, answers our questions, and keeps us in touch with friends and family across many miles. But have you ever taken the time to consider the harm you may be doing to your brain by constantly using your smartphone?
All day long we’re inundated with interruptions from our devices. They wake us up, send us notifications, and prompt us to check our emails and voicemails. These interruptions are so commonplace to us that we hardly notice them. We want technology to help keep our busy lives in order. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t agree. These constant interruptions and alerts trigger stress hormones, igniting the fight-or-flight response. That response was intended to help us outrun danger, not answer a phone call. We were not made to live like this.
Scientists are learning that our phones are training our brains to be in a constant state of stress by establishing new stress-fear memory pathways. This means the part of our brains that normally deal with higher level thinking shuts down. Our brains can only do one thing at a time and do it well, so switching from task to task such as working and then checking notifications on our phones is costing us brain power and time.
This is called the “switch cost” and each time we change tasks we’re using up to 40% of our productive brain time and triggering a good dose of the stress hormone cortisol and the addiction chemical dopamine. If you’ve read many of our previous blogs, you know that excessive amounts of stress being triggered in our brains can manifest itself in many ways both physically and mentally causing weight gain, fatigue, brain dysfunction and more. To put it simply, the stress we build up trying to multitask is making us sick and addicted to our technology, which perpetuates the cycle and makes our brains lazier.
In fact, researchers were surprised to learn that the more tapping and clicking and social media posting people do, the noisier their brain signal becomes. Instead of becoming faster and more efficient at these tasks as would be expected by doing something repetitively, our brains respond differently when we engage in social media on our smart phones and it’s causing a huge tax on our brains.
Studies have shown that people who are smarter and more analytic generally spend much less time attached to their technology. There is a link between less analytical thinking and more smartphone usage. Research has also shown that using your phone to learn new information is far less effective than taking in information from a book. People who read and research the old-fashioned way tend to develop deeper comprehension and engage in more conceptual thinking.
However, since our phones aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, what can we do to decrease the damage being done to our brains? It might be wise to consider limiting our screen time and changing the tasks for which we use our phones. Set aside time each day to put down the phone, read a book, go outside in nature, and otherwise engage in real world activities. You can also learn to use your smartphone to help counteract some of the damage caused by stress on the brain by using the BrainTap app either with or without the BrainTap headset. Simply lying back and relaxing during a BrainTap audio session can counteract the effects of fight-or-flight on our brains, increase relaxation, enhance the brainwave patterns that encourage learning, and much more. Your brain will thank you for it!