Information overload isn’t just an unfortunate condition for a select few nowadays; it is a constant state of being for the vast majority of people, especially those with internet access in the palm of their hands thanks to smartphones.
This isn’t an article demonizing technology and the double-edged nature of near instantaneous access to information, but rather one about the importance of simply taking a break from always being on.
During the holidays, take this time not only to enjoy being with family and friends, but unplugging as well. Giving your brain a well-deserved break can help you with greater productivity when you do start back to work.
Below are some of the benefits of what happens when you give your brain a break.
If you are truly dedicated to your work, it can be hard to justify daydreaming or zoning out even for a brief period of time, but research shows that “creative incubation” occurs when your mind is allowed to wander. When your brain is resting, it is processing new information and resolving issues, which is why you tend to have epiphanies when you’re doing a mindless task.
The frontal lobe, which is responsible for planning and decision-making, works when the brain is quiet, not when you are doing some mental heavy lifting trying to force a solution to appear.
Being attached to your smartphones, laptops and tablets at all time may make you feel like you’re being extra efficient by being available 24/7 and multitasking constantly, but it actually slows your thinking and output. Switching between tasks fatigues your brain, slowing its efficiency. Also, your brain naturally cycles from highest attention to lowest attention every 90 minutes in what is known as an ultradian rhythm.
The massive intake of inconsequential information you experience throughout the day via tweets, texts and emails can burn out your insula, the part of the brain that regulates attention. When you’re attending to too many tasks at once, your insula become overtaxed and leaves you struggling to focus.
While the exact reasons remain unknown, excessive use of technology has been found to increase anxiety and depression in individuals. These negative emotions tend to be heightened when constantly exposed to others living their supposedly perfect lives. The stress of trying to compete with others leads to a skewed view of the world.
Also, being constantly connected and working can leave you stressed out. Giving your brain a vacation of its own can help lower the stress hormone, cortisol. Studies have shown high levels of cortisol can damage the brain’s hippocampus, the learning and memory center.
As hard as it might sound, it really is best to leave your smartphones and tablets out of the bedroom. Studies have found that the blue light emitted from these devices prevent the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates your circadian rhythm. Reduced melatonin levels make it harder to fall and stay asleep.
Another drawback of having smartphones with you in bed is that they can disrupt your sleep with notifications, causing what little rest you do receive to be far less peaceful. It is advised to give yourself at least 30 minutes of technology free transition time before going to bed.
Technology is a wonderful thing, but like anything else, it should be used in moderation. Once you discover the benefits of taking breaks from technology, you can begin to incorporate it into your daily routine.