My mornings used to be like a space shuttle launch: 3-2-1... woosh! I'd jump out of bed, check email before heading into the shower, respond to email while drying my hair and eat breakfast on the way to my first appointment. I had so much to do that I couldn't imagine wasting even one second. Little did I know that "full speed ahead" was actually costing me efficiency and productivity.
Over the last few years I have learned about mindfulness and added to my knowledge of brain health. Knowing more in these two areas has helped me slow down and, in essence, accomplish more.
It doesn't seem to make sense that slowing down can enable us to accomplish more. But that is exactly what places like UT Dallas' Center for BrainHealth are teaching us. According to the center, practices tied to technology, information overload, multitasking, and cruising on autopilot all have a negative impact on our brains.
- Being continuously tied to technology keeps our brains in a constant state of information overload. The non-stop trail of information coming toward us almost puts the brain in a state similar to ADHD, with so many thoughts swirling through our minds that we're unable to focus on just one area of importance.
- The constant deluge of information made available via technology can easily be compared to those math word problems from elementary school that had extra information added in to see if we could tell what mattered and what didn't. Our brains, similarly, are getting so much information that they are having a hard time determining essential from non-essential data. The overload confuses us, again resulting in a lack of focus.
- Multi-tasking is exhausting our brains and, as a result, watering down our ability. Imagine arm wrestling using only 2-3 fingers against the other guy who is using his entire hand. That's your brain when you're multi-tasking. The one with 2-3 fingers. The other fingers from your hand are the ones thinking about other topics or other projects. This results in your brain being more tired and less efficient. The result is giving ourselves fewer opportunities for success.
- Going through life on autopilot is another negative practice. When we already know how to do something, we're often "just doing what we've always done" to complete a task. That's fine if you're talking about how to tie your shoes, but the practice stymies our creativity and ability to build a better mousetrap. Brain science now tells us that we can continue to learn new things, restore lost functions and even enhance cognition through sustained mental or physical activities.
What can you do to improve your brain power?
- Give yourself five minutes of technology-free time five times each day.
- Give yourself at least 20 minutes of complete downtime. A walk outside, a few minutes of deep breathing, sitting in your room or office without taking calls or looking at paperwork. Something works better for you? Fine, just find an opportunity to give your brain a much-needed, total rest so it can be recharged for the remainder of the day.
- Participate in some type of meditative practice each day. Options may include mindfulness or other types of meditation, yoga, tai chi, or qi gong, just to name a few. All of these provide opportunities for focused attention and relaxed breathing which have the potential benefits of stress reduction, building skills to manage stress, increased self-awareness, and greater focus on the present.
These are some of the ways I have changed my world from jump start to steady as she goes. And the difference is remarkable.
Let me know how it goes.
Dr. Wolbe can be reached through her website at www.drsusiewolbe.com.