Mind Control Self Improvement

Are Mobile Devices Changing Our Brains?

The internet has undoubtedly plunged us into something of a revolution [1]. It’s brought great change to the world – the scale of which we cannot yet quite see, as we are still feeling our way through this brave new world. Many of these changes are positive – we are more able than ever before to connect with people on the other side of the world, many of us have opportunities for learning and advancement which simply would not have been possible a few decades ago, and access to information has never been more unfettered. However, the internet is not without its dark sides. ‘Trolling’, the general dissemination of hate [2], and a loss of trust in information sources [3] are just a few of the problems caused by the internet – problems which we’re struggling to understand and control. However, some also believe that the internet and digital devices also pose a serious risk to our health – particularly our mental and cognitive health. Is the internet really changing our brains? If so – how?

Mobile Devices And Cognitive Overload

Mobile devices are very useful indeed. Gone are the days when people could easily get ‘stuck’ with no means of contacting help. However, they do frequently replace the problems they solve with new ones. Once, being splashed by a car or falling in a lake was an annoyance at worst, funny at best. Now, it’s a potentially expensive disaster if your phone/tablet is on you and it’s not covered against water damage [4]. Perhaps more worrying, however, is the fact that we’re arguably becoming slaves to our devices, and the internet to which they give us access. Those constant notifications, the need to check up on our social media posts, the impulse to pull out our phones and research a random thought the second it occurs – all of these leave our brains with very little ‘mental downtime’. While digital technology is progressing incredibly fast, evolution proceeds at its usual, aeons-long pace. Our brains simply did not evolve to be effectively plugged in to a world of interaction and information 24/7. Without the time it needs to ponder, take stock, and rest on its own, our brains are put under intense pressure. What is more, the fact that the internet has made a lot of things ‘easier’ means that we’re actually increasing our workload by trying to simultaneously do 10 things which would previously have required travel, time, and a reasonable amount of (one-to-one) attention paid to them.  As such, our brains are getting ‘overloaded’ – and our thought processes are becoming far less efficient [5].

Digital Reliance And Internet Addiction

Our brains work best when they’re given exercise. The more we consider things for ourselves, the more neural connections our brains make, and the better we become at thinking in general. Problem solving and critical thinking, however, are arguably endangered in the era of the internet. Why? Simply because the internet, theoretically, has all the answers. While there’s nothing wrong with using the internet to research a problem, collate sources, analyse data and so on, simply heading online to find the answer to a problem means that your brain is not doing the work itself. And the more we get used to having the ‘answers’ spoon-fed to us, the less able we are to think critically [6] about what we’re being told. To take this further, it should be noted that getting information (and social media validation) online gives our brains a certain ‘buzz’ which can, if one uses the internet heavily enough, become ‘addictive’. Internet addiction – already a big problem in Asia [7] – is just as damaging as many other addictions (if not more so, due to the ubiquity of the internet).

What Can You Do?

So what can you do to prevent yourself from falling prey to internet-based problems? Well, there’s no need to give up the internet entirely, but it may be a good idea to cut down on usage. Limit your internet visits to those which are strictly necessary. Try not to have too many browser tabs open at once. Stick to concentrating on the matter in hand rather than letting your mind and your mouse wander. And give your brain plenty of no-internet time. Meditate, go for phone-free walks, read books, exercise – these will give your brain a chance to calm down and build new connections without the danger of cognitive overload. And, always, think critically about what you’re reading.

[1] Micha Kaufman, “The Internet Revolution is the New Industrial Revolution”, Forbes, Oct 2012

[2] Jamie Bartlett, “The utopian dream of the internet has become a nightmare – and Donald Trump is its spawn”, The Telegraph, Jan 2017

[3] Kathleen Parker, “Fake news, media distrust and the threat to democracy”, The Denver Post, Nov 2016

[4] Quotezone, “Cheap Insurance For All Types Of Tablet”

[5] Daniel J Levitin, “Why the modern world is bad for your brain”, The Guardian, Jan 2015

[6] Richard Adhikari, “Is the Internet Killing Critical Thinking?”, TechNewsWorld, Sept 2009

[7] Tom Phillips, “Chinese teen chops off hand to ‘cure’ internet addiction”, The Telegraph, Feb 2015

Disciplinary Studies Self Improvement

Mind The Health of Your Body

Physical Health Contributes to Mental Ability

If you have come to this website, it is likely that you are interested in your mind, in healing it, improving it, and making it work for you in new ways. You may not be so concerned about your body (beyond basic functionality and perhaps some cosmetic concerns). However, mind and body are, in fact, intricately, inextricably connected [1]. The one does not work separately from or at the expense of the other – quite the reverse! If you wish to improve your mind, it can really, really help to improve the health of your body in the process.

What is the problem with Dichotomous Thinking?

There is a bit of a problem in the modern world with Dichotomous Thinking [2], or ‘black and white thinking’ – i.e. seeing things as working in opposition to one another, rather than as the interconnected whole the world actually is. This is particularly evident in our attitude towards body and mind. Picture, if you will, somebody with the ‘perfect body’ – someone strong, someone fit, someone who puts a lot of effort into making their body the best it can be. Now picture someone with an excellent mind – someone who enjoys learning, who knows a lot, an intellectual.

We’re willing to bet that the ‘perfect body’ person you pictured came with a certain set of assumptions  – most prominent among them being that they aren’t particularly bright [3]. Similarly, your ‘excellent mind’ person probably was not a prime physical specimen. This shows just how dichotomised our thinking about body and mind actually is. We assume that those with good bodies are ‘dumb jocks’, or otherwise deficient in the brain department. And we assume that intellectuals are physically weak, or unattractive. It’s as though we somehow believe that building physical health comes at the direct expense of mental prowess, and vice versa. In fact, the absolute opposite is true [4].

How are We Interconnected Humans?

The brain is an organ like any other. It requires nutrients, good circulation, oxygen, and hydration. Quite simply, the better able your body is to supply these, the better able your brain is to do its job. The same is true of your body. Your mental state has a huge impact on the state of your body – either by raising or reducing motivation and willpower to exercise and eat healthily, or by actively lowering things like immune response (it is proven, for example, that stress and depression have a negative impact on your body’s ability to fight off disease [5]). Take conditions like alcoholism, for example. Alcoholism is a mental illness which has an enormous impact upon the body, and which requires both physical and mental approaches to treat it effectively [6]. As such, anyone wanting to improve their mind must simultaneously start taking their physical health seriously. To concentrate solely on the more cerebral and psychological aspects of self-healing and self-improvement is to miss out half the picture.

What Can We Do to Increase the Health of Our Minds?

So, in order to reach your mental potential, you must treat your physical self with respect. This means making certain sacrifices, and taking up certain initiatives. As a general rule, what’s good for the heart is good for the brain. So, eat plenty of healthy fruits and vegetables, and try to avoid over-processed or sugary foodstuffs. Keep yourself well-hydrated, and don’t overindulge, calorie-wise. Try and exercise as much as you can. Exercise outdoors is particularly effective, as being within natural surrounds is proven to enhance your mental health and intellectual capabilities [7]. Exercise such as walking and yoga can also be combined with meditation, providing a ‘double whammy’ of benefits for both body and mind. All in all, it’s a good idea to make a full-scale effort to change all areas of your life, in order to bring the full benefit in the area you desire.

post written by Anne Ball


[1] Kings College Hospital, “Understanding the mind-body link”

[2] Harvard, “Cognitive Biases (Cognitive Distortions)”

[3] Andy McGlashen, Deborah Feltz, “Fighting The ‘Dumb Jock’ Stereotype”, Michigan State University, Apr 2013

[4] Patti Neighmond, “What’s Good For The Heart Is Good For The Brain”, NPR, May 2016

[5] American Psychological Association, “Stress Weakens The Immune System”, Feb 2006

[6], “How to Detox from Alcohol”

[7] Mark Kinver, “Green spaces have lasting positive effect on well-being”, BBC, Jan 2014