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The Art of Multitasking Actually Harms

Memories are an indispensable part of our personality. Remembering things has always been different for everyone, some remember things well and some don’t. Yet, how much you multitask plays a vital role in it all.

The art of multitasking actually causes harm (Source: Pexels)

Attention plays a part in how well we remember everything and so does age. Whatever it is that you want in life from being a better student to being mentally sharp as you age, a better memory always helps. Currently whilst being surrounded by smartphones and computers we try to become like them, trying to do everything at once and not paying attention to one certain thing. I assure you that even now, while reading this article you have a hundred notifications beeping on your devices and you probably will not even get to the end.

Many people feel good about how well they multitask. Today, almost everyone in the world continues to multitask on their smartphones and laptops trying to keep up with everything going on in their personal and professional lives. Working with multiple tabs open on our laptops, scrolling through social media apps on our phones, and watching television all at the same time is something all of us have mastered. All of this has become just another normal chore in our daily lives, but who would’ve thought that this might have the potential to be dangerous.

While we believe that multitasking makes ends meet it makes you less productive and less efficient.

As stated in a recently published study, ‘media multitasking’ may lead to memory failure due to attention lapsing, even in young adults. The study states that “Heavier media multitasking is associated with a propensity to have attention lapses and forget”. Engaging with miscellaneous forms of screen-based digital devices simultaneously is associated with harm to our brains. This type of practice specifically leads to ‘memory failure’.

Humans are now straggling behind the unostentatious goldfish when it involves specializing in one particular task. Frequent media multitasking causes reductions in the brain's gray matter in areas associated with cognitive control, emotion, and motivation. Individuals engaging in higher media multitasking perform worse on cognitive control tasks and face socio-emotional difficulties. It weakens working memory as well as long-term memory. The more multitasking, the more the distraction.

The lead author of the study, Kevin Madore of Stanford Memory Lab conducted a research using techniques to measure brain activity and pupil dilation. The research was conducted with 80 subjects aged 18 through 26 years. Techniques like electroencephalography (monitoring method to record the electrical activity of the brain) and pupillometry(the measurement of pupil size and reactivity) were used to conduct the study.

The participants were shown a series of images and were asked to rate them based on pleasant, unpleasant; big, small. After a 10 min interval, they were asked to look at another set images, some of which were the same as earlier. The images were to be identified in accordance if they were new images or were already rated by them. The participants later filled out a questionnaire where they quantified their everyday attention based on how much they splurge on multitasking. The participants were evaluated on how they could engage in multitasking within an hour. The researchers discovered that the people who had more engagement with media multitasking had more attention lapses.

Anthony Wagner, a professor at Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences said “one direction that the field as a whole has been heading in is a focus on what happens before learning or, as in this case, before remembering even occurs. That’s because memory heavily depends on goal-directed cognition – we essentially need to be ready to remember, have attention engaged and a memory goal in mind – in order to retrieve our memories.”

The researchers also found out that a few parameters influencing recall memory can be improved by being responsive to attentiveness and limiting distractions. There are a few natural ways that can benefit the process of improving long term memory.

1. Meditation

The most important and simple way is meditation. Meditation affects health positively in many ways. It has proven to increase gray matter in the brain. Meditation and relaxation techniques have proved to improve short-term memory in people of all ages, from adults to the elderly.

2. Brain training

Exercising your cognitive skills by playing brain games is a fun and effective way to boost your memory.

3. Cut Down on Refined Carbs

Consuming large amounts of refined carbohydrates like cakes, cereal, cookies, white bread may be damaging to your memory. These foods have a high glycemic index, meaning the body digests these carbohydrates quickly, resulting in a spike in glucose levels.

4. Exercise More

Exercise is important for overall physical and mental health. Exercise may improve the growth and development of neurons, leading to improved brain health.

5. Include Cocoa in Your Diet

Cocoa is not only delicious but also nutritious, providing a strong dose of antioxidants called flavonoids, particularly beneficial to the brain.

The inundated amount of notifications beeping in our heads and around us to complete our tasks in time somewhere down the road we compromise the well-being of our extremely complicated and remarkably valuable brain. Giving full attention to one task at hand will bring more creativity, increase productivity and efficiency rather than consciously and completely shifting tabs or devices. With so many tasks and so many distractions, it may take you a little time to pull through the mess, but you need to prioritize your tasks based on urgency and importance. Paying attention, and avoiding distractions are interlinked to your long-term goals and success.

It is now time to urge far from distractions, shut those tabs, and be aware of attentiveness.

One Device at a Time.


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