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Multitasking is bad for you

November 5, 2014

There’s some great research out there about how multitasking is bad for our brain. Check out these:

Here’s an article from the business section of TIME magazine. http://business.time.com/2013/04/17/dont-multitask-your-brain-will-thank-you/

And one from PBS. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/is-multitasking-bad.html

This NPR article poses that it’s not even possible for humans to truly multitask. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=95256794

And finally one from BrainFacts. http://www.brainfacts.org/sensing-thinking-behaving/awareness-and-attention/articles/2013/the-multitasking-mind/

Yeah, it’s actually true. Neuroscience shows us that this common, often highly regarded business “skill” negatively effects our brain and possibly even causes long term damage. The prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that governs decision making, personality expression, social behavior and cognitive function is severely overloaded through multi-tasking. Science shows that repetitive stress to this part of the brain causes distraction, lack of focus, diminished mental organization and decreased problem solving ability. Frighteningly enough, some studies have showed that people who multitask on a regular basis have trouble applying information acquired while multitaksing and lack the ability to filter relevant information from that which is irrelevant. I find that one particularly creepy because it seems those are the very skills we think we are cultivating in this modern computer driven world.

The saddest thing is that when we are splitting our attention, we never truly engage in and commit to something fully. Herein lies one of the many medicinal secrets that yoga has to offer us.

Here are 4 modern day applications of yogic wisdom that are medicine for your brain.

1. Two Tasks MAX! Research shows that if we focus on two tasks at the same time, automatically each side of the brain takes on a different task. Since there are only two sides of the brain, this suggests that a healthy max is two tasks at the same time.Try closing all the tabs on your computer until you only have a max of two open.

2. The 20-min rule. Better yet, only focus on one thing at a time. Stanford researcher Clifford Nass suggests that that instead of focusing on two tasks at the same time, which still can cause overload on the brain, focus your attention completely on one task for 20min and then switch to the other. Try sitting for 20 minutes and ONLY focusing on your breath.Your mind will want to wander. That’s ok! Just gently bring it back to the breath. This is a great way to heal your prefrontal cortex and start to retrain your brain to have a healthy attention span.

3. Reduce Email Time. Well, obviously. But this one is SO important, especially in this technology based society. As soon as the email is opened, the mind immediately goes into multi-tasking mode. Do your brain a favor and create some space before opening your computer. Instead of checking email first thing in the morning, create some time to meditate, be in nature and/or move your body before checking your inbox. Instead of checking emails infinite times throughout the day, turn email notifications off and schedule specific times to work with your email. Set clear boundaries here–you’re whole being will thank you!

4. Conscious Transitions. Well, I could write a dissertation on this one (I think I’ll write a longer blog on this soon). Everything in life is cyclical. There is a beginning and an end to everything we do. This profound truth is all but lost in a vast majority of our society. We have multiple conversations at once, text while we are talking, look at GPS while driving, eat and watch T.V. The list goes on and on. Make a conscious commitment to transition throughout your day. Practice ending one conversation before starting another. Finish one email before beginning another, finish your exhale before taking another inhale!

Written by Ashleigh Sergeant

Ashleigh is the co-director of Danyasa Yoga Arts Trainings in Costa Rica and a regular presenter at the Wanderlust Festival and Lightning in a Bottle Festival. Ashleigh regularly films online yoga classes with My Yoga Online/GAIAMTV and Grokker Inc., and has contributed to Mind Body Green, YOGANONYMOUS, Latin Women’s Health and German Yoga Journal. Ashleigh strives to make the profound teachings of yoga appealing to as many people as possible and is known for her clear, concise and extremely accessible teaching style.

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