Brain Wash (2020) is a no-nonsense handbook for living a calm and content life in a world that’s designed to deliver the opposite. Medical doctors David and Austin Perlmutter unpack how our modern society manipulates our brains. Then they lay out a powerful 10-day bootcamp for breaking these bad patterns and building healthier habits.
Clicking, scrolling, snacking, buying – our daily routines are made up of thousands of tiny actions, all designed to deliver a bit of pleasure. So, obviously, everyone should be happy, right?
Unfortunately, statistics show that the opposite is true. Since the 1990s, the number of antidepressant prescriptions in the United States has gone up more than 400 percent. During the same time period, the suicide rate rose in nearly every state. And, today, more than one in four Americans suffer from insomnia.
The key message in this blink is: our modern world is great for instant gratification but terrible for long-term happiness.
So how’d we get here? The answer has to do with our brains.
For millions of years, our ancestors lived in a dangerous and unstable world. Food was often scarce and predators lurked around every corner. To cope with these pressures, and to help us stay safe, our brains evolved to value certain things, like social acceptance and energy-rich foods.
Due to technological advancement, our contemporary lives are much easier. However, our brains haven’t caught up. The older parts of our brain, such as the amygdala, are still wired to seek the same rewards.
The problem comes when big businesses exploit these survival instincts for profit. This is increasingly common. Just consider the modern diet. Grocery stores could offer only the healthiest fare, but, instead, many push a variety of sugary sweets, salty snacks, and all sorts of high-calorie, nutrient-poor options.
We love these foods because they satisfy our primal instincts – our age-old preference for foods packed with energy. Businesses love these foods because they’re easy to sell. The downside is, this exchange only leads to short-term gratification. In the long-term it leads to chronic illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
The same problem occurs with social media. Companies like to keep us clicking, swiping, and liking because it generates advertising revenue. Our brains like it because it provides the primal rewards of attention and social acceptance. However, the whole ordeal comes at the expense of deeper meaningful relationships. Even with our constant connection, the majority of Americans report feeling lonely.
We can call this pattern of valuing instant gratification over long-term happiness “disconnection syndrome.” To overcome it, we must rewire our brains. In the next blinks, we’ll start to learn how.