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What Is Digital Dementia? Here's How To Prevent Brain Fog and Burnout From Technology

Is your memory disappearing faster and faster each day? Are your children spending the majority of your time asking you where they’ve misplaced their thoughts?

If any of this sounds familiar, digital dementia may be afflicting you or your kids.

Common symptoms of the digital variety of dementia are:

  • lack of ability to concentrate,
  • being forgetful
  • brain fog
  • burnout

What Is Digital Dementia?

Well, it all started in the year 2000 when you were, most likely, introduced to your first smartphone. Remember the euphoria? You could surf the internet, text, and chat with your friends at the same time.

And yet, down the road, this instant access would lead to digital dementia and feature symptoms such as poor focus, burnout, and forgetfulness, according to renowned neuroscientist, Manfred Spitzer.

Dr Spitzer says digital dementia comes from an overuse of digital technology resulting in the breakdown of cognitive abilities. Spitzer proposes that short-term memory pathways start to deteriorate from under-use if we overuse technology.

To help increase awareness of this common condition, Spitzer wrote the book, Digital Dementia. In his book, he discussed findings first discovered by Korean physicians and scientists who concluded too much computer usage was to blame. Spritzer focused on their reports of young adults coming in with complaints of feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, forgetful, and suffering from constant brain fog.

After looking at the data, Spitzer built on the scientists’ conclusions by focusing on the cognitive breakdown present. He theorized that the symptoms occurred when we rely too heavily on our devices and don’t use our short-term memory enough. 

Our attention spans have been transformed and rewired by technology,

there's no doubt. Think about the time that you got your first smart phone. It was probably around the year 2000, right? Well, Microsoft did a study and they found that the average attention span to focus on a task went from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to less than 8 seconds in 2013--a goldfish can focus better than that!

 Digital dementia distraction

A Big Part Of The Problem Is Distraction

Life online and on our smartphones-- is so full of connection and possiblitys that we can easily find ourselves in cycles of distraction.

  • You're writing an email and a notification that a friend just posted on Instagram pops up
  • You're on a call and you get another call while you're texting your daughters school that she can't find her homework and she will be late
  • You're researching a project and land on a page filled with interesting ads that you click on as you bounce back and forth between shopping a and researching

Dr. Spitzer says the bottom line is this:

The biggest issue with distractability is that it is difficult to make meaningful connections because new information never gets to your long-term memory.

Leading to Digital Dementia Forgetfulness

Instead the information sits in your short-term memory and then is forgotten. Reduced concentration lowers your ability to connect new information with old information and, in turn, form more in-depth inferences.

Us? Not using our short term memory? 

Uh, maybe.  How many times have you asked someone for their phone number and watched as they began scrolling through their contacts?

Does Dementia Happen Suddenly?

No, it doesn't.

Good news-our brains have billions of neurons that connect in one massive network, much like the internet.

In fact, Dr. Spitzer says we  can lose half of your neurons and still be able to function normally--but he adds-- losing more than half will result in a form of dementia—conditions that feature mental decline and include Alzheimer’s. As more neurons disappear, the others scramble to retain functioning.

With dementia, age worsens cognitive decline, so protecting your brain—and your child’s—is critical.

Can Digital Dementia lead to Digital Addiction?

How do you know when you (or your child) have moved from an obsession to an addiction?

You can start by taking the Screen Addiction Test developed by Dr. Kimberly Young,  Tech Wellness expert and renowned specialist and founder of the NetAddiction Center.

Dr. Young explains that addictions present with symptoms like isolation, intense pre-occupation, inability to not use screens and devices, moodiness and obvious addictive behavior.

There is a vast difference between a Digital Obsession—which leads to Digital Dementia—and an addiction. For each, the symptoms are handled differently. An obsession -and dementia can be tapered by being mindful and aware, while an addiction is all-consuming and won’t stop without professional intervention.

Dr. Young recommends a Digital Diet to promote balance with technology,

"I think it’s just raising awareness and making a habit out of not checking or using technology throughout the day or for long periods of time."

Can Digital Dementia Can Be Cured?

Digital dementia isn’t permanent, but it does take a focus, mindfulness and a bit of willpower to stay clear of its harmful effects.

Yes! We're all about Solutions-

To help you reclaim your attention, feel more rested throughout the day, and do more than remind your children of everything, we’ve gathered the stats and theories on digital dementia and many ways you can avoid cognitive decline.

11 Healthy Steps to Avoid Digital Dementia And Sharpen Memory

1. Master Another Language

Learning another language prevents any form of mental decline. It may even provide five years of dementia-free life if you develop Alzheimer.

2. Add Music to Your Day

Many studies have shown that music can improve IQ and provide stimulation for your brain. Practicing music is the best exercise, but listening is excellent, too.

3. Spend Time Offline

Carve out an hour (or more!) and declare it “tech-free hour”. Spend this time creating new things like poetry, funny speeches, interesting and zany characters, or just read a book.

 Spend an hour of life Off line each day and  relax your brain and let it form deep thoughts and connect to the here and now--the real world:  explore nature, write with pen to paper, use your imagination and make up whimsical or visionary characters--Create!

digital dementia fighting nature kit

During this time, let your brain relax with some nature exploration or manual writing.  You may want to try our beautiful letter press Creative Kits- they can help you and your kids enjoy the real world and the deeper connections your mind will create.

digital dementia fighter

Hear, touch, taste, see, smell, and feel the magnificent world around you.

Go slow and savor everything.

4. Get Your Heart Pumping With Aerobic Exercise

Exercise is wonderful for your body and mind!

In fact, a study of mature women with mild cognitive decline held at UBC verified this statement. This research project showed that after six months of movement-based exercise, these women showed improved memory.

This study proved that aerobic exercise could make your hippocampus (the leading supporter of your memory) larger.

5. Find Another Way to Access Your News

Add newspaper and magazines to your news feed. These offer a broader range of stories and can go toward your “tech-free hour”.

6. Socialize with Family and Friends: Connect

Socialization is a vital part of our lives. It boosts our mood, helps us learn more, and teaches us to expand our perspective.

Manfred Spitzer write in Digital Dementia "When you use the computer, you outsource your mental activity." He then connects lack of mental activity with fewer social skills, "The more time you spend with screens, the less your social skills will be."

So, head outside and talk to people. Laugh with them. Talk about something fun and interesting like the internet!

7. Meditate Daily

Meditation is a excellent way to improve your concentration. You can do it for just five minutes a day and learn to still your mind. Meditation also helps with insomnia, anxiety, and depression.

natural yoga mat

Yoga is an awesome idea, because it lets you meditate and exercise at the the same time.  We love our non-toxic Yoga Mats.


8. Avoid Phone Distractions and Online Distractions

Notifications are a constant in our life. These pings and flashing lights that alert us to emails, texts, and social media posts can dominate our concentration.

To boost your ability to learn and concentration, turn off all notifications. They will be there when you’re ready for them.

And beware the Hyper link when you are on line:  Yes. Experts tell us that clicking on the links to research or similar articles(or awesome products) can lower lower your comprehension.

Consider reading the article or blog first-then going back and exploring the links.

self care cellphone

9. Get Quality Sleep

We know what happens after a bad’s night sleep — brain fog, irritation, an urge to fall asleep anywhere. Sleep is non-negotiable. We need it like we need air.

Many studies,—a century’s worth—have proven that sleep is critical to keeping a healthy memory. There are a massive amount of advantages received from sound sleep, but a few additional benefits include a stronger heart and sleeker physique.

#poweroff

10. Try A Digital Diet

Part of being mindful Dr. Young, Screen and Internet Addiction expert recommends that Moms and Dads and kids too adopt a digital diet in order to stay fit and healthy in our modern world.

“Educate kids to find a balance, a healthy use. I talk a great deal about digital diet, digital nutrition. I compare it to treating it like we do food because often times, we just don't see moderated and healthy use of technology,

Go back to the premise that eating protein and fruit and vegetables with the occasional treat or sweet, makes for a healthy, well fueled body--and you teach young children that much of Technology's good. --Like researching online and working on reports- it's very useful and productive.  But it has to be balanced with the time we play games online --of course, you don't want to just make your whole life sedentary around computers. You want to actually be also active in physical education, eating well, exercising.”


#beherenow

11. Do ONE Activity at a Time

Online and offline, avoid multitasking. There are only about 2% of people in the world who are good at multitasking, so most of us are faking it. Not only does multitasking frazzle your nerves, but it prevents you from processing information on a deeper level.

Do one thing at a time, especially when you are on your devices.

Oh, and keep your phone out of your sight — preferably in another room. According to a study done by Adrian F. Ward and co-authors, even if you turn your phone off and place it face down, it is still on your mind. Yes, your phone is still “...leaving fewer resources available for other tasks and undercutting cognitive capacity.”

Your phone is a tool to help you connect more, navigate easier, and discover new experiences--it was designed to make your like easier--when it stops feeling that way, put it down..

If you reach for anything, reach for a happy, healthy and balanced life.

Be Well!


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