Distraction, Smart Phones & Your Brain

When was the last time you were silent? Really silent?

Not reading a book, scrolling through your smart phone or listening to music?

I would guess that you don’t remember the last time – as not many people do it.

Understandably we are busy with work, family and friends. However, even when we do have time to ourselves or ‘quiet’ time, we still occupy our minds. Keeping it busy looking at devices, listening to mp3’s or watching videoes – we don’t give our mind a chance to rest and there is a scientific reason why!

It’s all about a chemical that is naturally produced in our brain: dopamine.

To explain simply about dopamine:

Dopamine functions as a neurotransmitter between nerve cells and ‘transmits’ signals (the release of dopamine) to other nerve cells that are closely linked to feelings of reward and pleasure.

It is used in many other important functions but is popularly known to significantly affect motivation, addiction, attention and lust. And can be greatly affected by drug abuse and alcoholism.

How does dopamine relate to silence?

Our brains’ reward receptors enjoy novelty (new things).

When searching through online feeds, checking email or browsing the internet (busyness) we anticipate new content: an important email, a picture of a friend, a witty post or anything that sparks interest. This anticipation culminates when we come across something new and interesting and we are rewarded with a ‘hit’ which releases the chemical, and we feel pleasure. This is not a problem.

The problem could arise when we do not come across anything novel or our reward receptors get accustomed to it. To regain or increase pleasure we then keep searching for the ‘hit’ for longer and longer. The more we give in to searching, the less quiet we can remain (for me atleast).

Have you ever picked up your phone for no real reason and just flicked around aimlessly?

Do you know somebody who seems to be addicted to their phone and can’t put their device down?

The negative effects from being so distracted with our devices?

Shortened attention span

an inability to focus on tasks for long periods of time

high cognitive load

physical safety issues

decreased productivity

possible emotional avoidance

and possible sleep issues.

There have been numerous articles and research papers that investigate the effects of technology on our brains.

Look up from your phone and take notice of how many people are staring at their devices.

Now you know why.

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