In today’s climate, we are continually inundated with information – much of it unsettling – with COVID-19 developments and economic forecasts evolving each day. Many of us have become news junkies, glued to our screens as we try to make sense of it all.
We are continually stuffing ourselves with information. Too much of it overloads the brain, impeding brain efficiency, mental alertness, decision-making and fluid intelligence. And the more we take in:
- the shallower our thinking,
- the lower our logical reasoning ability, and
- the less likely we are to act wisely.
In effect, our mental agility and active decision-making capacity get mired by having to sift through excessive data.
To make matters worse, much of the news is negative and frightening—and that increases our cortisol (stress) levels and builds counterproductive pathways in the brain, hindering our ability to down regulate fear and anxiety, as well as our capacity to imagine a better future.
So how do we balance staying informed with staying brain healthy? The key is to limit what you take in: the brain responds more effectively when presented with bite-size amounts of objective information that allow you to weigh both sides.
You can feed your brain and strengthen the right neural connections by putting yourself on a healthy “information diet:”
- Ration your daily intake of negative news (for example, set a time in the morning and early evening—and turn off the news notifications on your devices for the rest of the day).
- Nourish your brain by consuming positive stories and having non-COVID conversations at mealtimes.
- Treat yourself to some “dessert” by imagining days beyond this time. This kind of possibility thinking actually helps us stay resourceful and flexible in a changing environment.
It’s a paradox that more information can make us less able to process, understand and act—but the science is clear! I hope this email helps you find a brain-healthy balance so that you can continue to thrive in the midst of it all. And as always, I wish you continued safety and brain health.
Published April 24, 2020
See more messages from our Chief Director, Sandra Chapman, PhD here.