The term “too much of a good thing” is most frequently used to describe the negative effects of over-utilizing something in our lives that we generally find pleasing and comforting. In the past it was most often associated with consuming too many desserts or over-indulgence in our favorite beverages, alcoholic or otherwise. But given the ever-expanding choices of human activity and behavior in today’s technological world, the term is now being applied to a whole new set of behaviors, many of which are proving to be detrimental to a healthy mind and body.
In the past, dementia was not a term that’s often used when referring to the young or middle aged, but rather to those of advanced age. It is a malady that affects the brain’s ability to think for itself or to recall even the simplest memory. But along with the enumerable benefits of technology came a new phenomenon; a new term and perhaps a new example of, “too much of a good thing.” Research is finding that whipping out our iPhone or tablet or other mobile device every time we need an answer is seriously hampering our brain’s ability to think. Being able to find anything with a click of a button or a swipe of the finger is remarkably convenient, but relying too heavily on digital devices is causing problems with our short-term memories.
The phenomenon called “digital dementia,” has arrived and it has the potential to affect the minds of generations to come. Individuals who rely heavily on technology may suffer deterioration in cerebral performance such as short-term memory dysfunction. While past generations grew up remembering phone numbers and other key information simply by memorizing it, most of us today do not even attempt to memorize things like phone numbers because we have devices that do it for us. But the good news is that, like the negative outcomes of too many calories on the body, the negative effects of too much technology on the brain can be reversed or avoided.
One of the easiest ways to begin to re-program the brain and reverse the threat of becoming “brain dead” is to push away from the table of technological gadgets. Take a weekend or a day and turn off the devices. Step away from the quick text and venture out into the world of conventional forms of communication. Like the physical body, exercising the brain will keep your brain functioning at optimal levels. Open a book, it might be tempting to find your favorite topic on your computer, but the best way to learn and strengthen your short-term memory is to take a break from the computer or iPad screens and try to recall information without the help of technology. Here are a few other tips that will excite and exercise your neutrons:
- Exercise physically. It has been shown to increase the ability to learn, handle stressful situations, make clear decisions and recall facts and memories. In general, fit people have better cognitive functioning.
- Diversify what you watch and read. Whether watching TV or reading a book, a balanced menu of informative and entertaining topics is best.
- Get up and get involved. Stop sitting on the bench watching the action. Start a new hobby, visit a museum, an art gallery or historic site. Take a class or go back to college, embark on a path to learn by doing.
- Focus on reducing stress. People with high amounts of stress are more likely to suffer from cognitive problems than those who are free of stress. Reduce stress levels with exercise, taking quick naps, participating in favorite sports activities or taking regular furloughs from the daily grind.
Do anything that can lead to the healthy restructuring or “rewiring” of the brain. Spend less time relying on technology and more time relying on utilizing the power of the brain. We have all become too plugged-in during the technological revolution. It’s time to break-away, even for a day or weekend. It will help ensure we all retain healthy cognitive functions and may even result in a longer healthier lifestyle.