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Why the Modern World Is Bad for Your Brain (and How to Fix It)

In the era of instant gratification, social media, and TV on-demand, it's tougher than ever to concentrate. Here are some tips on how to stay sharp.
by Michael Benninger | Jan 19 2017

Why The Modern World Is Bad For Your Brain

Did you know we’re exposed to more information in a single day than someone in the 1500s encountered during their entire lives? Before marvelling too long at how far civilization has come, here’s the bad news: This information overload has taken a serious toll on our attention spans.

The average human attention span fell from 12 seconds to 8 seconds between 2000 and 2015. To put that in perspective, the attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds.

The endless information is rewiring the way our brains work, and not necessarily for the better. We now rely on calculator apps to do simple math we learned in grade school, and we use our vehicles’ navigation systems instead of remembering routes.

We don’t often pause to consider how the Information Age is affecting the way we think and live. One area where this deluge of data is especially damaging is decision making.

For instance, to find out whether cow’s milk is beneficial for your diet, you’d likely read through forums, blogs, and books, and even after all that research still not have a definitive answer.

This overabundance of information undercuts our judgment. Instead of making more important decisions, we allow ourselves to get mired in minor details.

Modern technology is pushing our brains to their limits, and while electronic devices can extend our capabilities, our brains work best when we concentrate on one task at a time. But how can we tune out the ceaseless noise of today’s world and train our brains to function in a more natural way? Here are two tactics that can help.

1. Give your brain time to refuel

It’s no surprise that meditation is among the best ways to recharge your noodle and achieve a more balanced state of mind. Simple breathing exercises and 10 minutes of mindfulness can go a long way toward turning the volume down on everyday distractions. Meditation not your thing? Healthy sleep habits can also lead to improved judgment during waking hours.

2. Filter your sources of information

Whenever you’re researching anything, consider the validity of your sources. In a world where anyone can publish anything to the internet in an instant, it’s more important than ever to be careful who you believe. Nonfiction books are an excellent source of information, as authors are generally experts in their fields and statements are often supported by verified research.

Nonfiction books are an excellent source of information. The Blinkist app is great for surveying what books are out there.

Blinkist is a learning app that transforms the world’s best nonfiction books into 15 minute reads. You can learn about rocket science over breakfast, stock trading over lunch, and the “7 Habits Of Highly Effective People” over dinner.

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