“The amount of information we produce in a day through email, social networking sites and text messages is on average six newspapers worth, compared to two and half pages in the 80s.” ~ Martin Hilbert, PhD
Our hyper-paced world culture of omnipresent social media and smartphone innovation is awash in technology and data. The overwhelmingly complex network of communications we are exposed to requires our brains to process and organise mountains of information every day.
While your brain may not fully have the capacity to deal with this overload physiologically it does have the amazing ability to creatively adapt (neuroplasticity) to these circumstances.
“The latest social neuroscience literature suggests that our ability to respond to the challenges of a fast-changing culture comes from our brain’s ability to flexibly combine and repurpose the neural resources that evolution provided us” ~ Science Daily
So how do we help our brains cope with this cognitive overload? What can we do to maintain brain well-being and encourage this neuroplasticity to continue to evolve and meet the increasing demand?
Contrary to popular thinking, the ability to multi-task is not particularly supportive of brain efficiency. Multi-tasking requires a quick switching from one task to another, which gives the illusion of accomplishing numerous tasks. However, the critical thinking, longer attention span, present moment awareness and ‘sorting’ functions of the brain are compromised with short spurts of attention that may be directed to email notices, Facebook tasks, texts etc. Thus multi-tasking interrupts the ability to accomplish more complex tasks and slows the brain’s operation.
To minimise distractions and support the brain’s information-sorting capability you can schedule your day to include what task or activity you want to focus on and when. For example you can:
(1) allow specific time (30-60 minutes) for a actively participating in a task;
(2) set aside specific time to engage social media activities rather than let the interruptions compete for brain function power and
(3) schedule time to be in nature or listen to music, as ways to nurture the brain’s inspiration and creativity.
Focusing in this way can preserve energy, improve performance and productivity, feed creativity and promote greater clarity and understanding of tasks being completed.
What you focus on prevails. You literally craft your own mind by choosing what you pay attention to. ~ lifecoachcode
Sleep is the time that your brain uses to cleanse itself of all unnecessary information. It also allows time to integrate the data collected from the day that will support improved memory and creative problem solving functions. Any unused data is erased during sleep, which allows greater space for pertinent learning and less brain overload. In this way, sleep helps reset the brain, improves cognitive function and restores energy levels.
These tiny organs exist inside each brain cell and are responsible for the energy production that feeds the brain’s activity. The brain uses up to 20% of the entire energy available to all body functions so these organs are essential to maintaining peak brain function! To bump up the brain’s energy eat foods that are high in polyphenols -berries, coffee (yes! coffee is loaded with polyphenols), apples, and citrus fruits.
Use techniques such as meditation, conscious breathing cycles, and programmed quiet times to help focus thoughts more clearly on desired outcomes and greater awareness of goals and tasks. Directing thinking toward goals and away from distractions helps the brain be more precisely directed toward thoughts and behaviours you do want and less focused on what you don’t want in your life. Training your thoughts in this way creates the space and energy pathways for you to build new and stronger brain connections for focused learning as well as the ability to let go of thinking that does not benefit you.
While there is little control over all that happens to you in a day, it is possible to take charge of the effects of daily experiences. By applying these new approaches to brain overload, you can direct and choose the beneficial information that you want to stay in your orbit and let natural brain functions delete the excess data. By simply focusing your thinking, getting adequate rest and adding beneficial nutrition, you can empower your brain’s function to create greater clarity, calm and have higher energy to manage all that comes at you!
Recommended Reading: Daniel Levitin, author of “The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload”.