In 2007, Apple released the first generation of the iPhone, and its accessibility ushered in a new era in technology. It offered a simple interface with features that were new and exciting, and the price point made it a reasonable investment to the average buyer. Almost overnight, the smartphone became a standard possession of most American adults. In the decade since that release, technologies have been developed that would have been considered science fiction twenty years ago. In 2018, we can hardly imagine a world without Skype, Bluetooth, and intelligent assistants like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.
Yet many people wonder about the long-term effects on our health and wellbeing. Are there hidden downsides to our constant technology use? Do the positives outweigh the negatives?
The key to healthy technology use is awareness. There are pitfalls, but they can be minimized. It is possible to use technology in a way that is beneficial for brain health. Let’s discuss a few critical components of the good and the bad so that we can achieve balance.
There has long been technology for assessing and improving brain health. However, until recent years, it was almost exclusively available to health professionals. Our current access to technology puts healing at our fingertips.
One of the most promising new developments in personal technology is the use of virtual reality systems to help people recover from mental disturbances like PTSD and social anxiety. This technology gives users the option of rehearsing triggering scenarios in a safe environment. The practice often includes a meditation component, teaching users to manage their stress in real time.
There are also many programs available that boost brain function using everything from meditation techniques to brain games backed by neuroscience. These apps aim to deliver brain-stimulating activities in a package that is both convenient and enjoyable. Accessible to most of us, these technologies allow users to support their brain health in the context of a busy life.
Without mindfulness, our constant access to technology presents challenges. Dramatically increased screen time can result in a decreased attention span. Constant stimulation can lead to boredom with any task that requires time and patience. Our ability to sustain focus suffers. While the ability to multitask is critical in our modern world, we must also train our brains for the kind of deep work that requires sustained focus.
Another brain function that takes a hit when we use technology without mindfulness is the memory. Memory works much like a muscle, built by the practice of memorizing and retaining information. For the first time in history, much of our need to exercise our memory has been removed by technological devices. Most of us own a device that can remember everything for us, from phone numbers to birth dates to any fact we could possibly need to know.
Also, modern technology is designed to deliver dopamine to our system; every time we receive a notification or text message, our brain gets a boost of the hormone that induces pleasure. This stimulation of our brain’s reward system can lead to addictive tendencies, fueled by a constant need for dopamine as well as continuous access to it. This cycle can keep us reaching for our phones over and over, draining our productivity and our personal relationships.
Technology, in and of itself, is not good or bad. It is just a tool, and we can make conscious choices about how we use it to reap benefits instead of consequences. As far as your brain is concerned, the bottom line is this: the healthiest relationship you can have with technology is a balanced one. There are plenty of ways to use technology to optimize your brain health. There are also plenty of ways to use it that can negatively impact your memory, your attention span, and the function of your brain’s reward centers over time. All technology use is not created equal. As with most things, we must approach it with mindfulness.
Here at BrainTap, we hope to offer you a wide array of options for maximizing the potential of your brain. We provide six separate educational bundles, each designed to provide you with practical tools for giving your brain a chance to recharge each day. We also offer a comprehensive package, our Wellness Collection, that gives you access to every single bundle. Check it out today at https://www.braintap.com/bundles.