Technology, Stress, and Your Brain

Yes, we love the way our computers, PDAs, video games, and iPods have revolutionized our lives and let us stay

Yes, we love the way our computers, PDAs, video games, and iPods have revolutionized our lives and let us stay connected and entertained 24/7. But there may be a downside for our health, says Gary Small, MD, author of iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind. For one thing, digital immersion can cause us to lose the social connections that protect us from stress. And video games — while they may improve eye-hand coordination and even help train surgeons and pilots — may also suppress the frontal lobe of the brain, hindering memory, attention, and problem-solving skills. “It’s not all good; it’s not all bad,” says Dr. Small. “It’s about finding the right balance.”

His tips for taking control:

Add up your total leisure time spent with technology. The average American spends six hours a day on digital entertainment (including TV and video games). Aim to reduce the total by 10 to 20 percent, freeing up more time for family and friends.

Make regular family dinners a priority. Research shows that teenagers who talk about their day with family members at the dinner table (instead of eating alone in front of a screen) are less likely to engage in high-risk behavior.

Vary your tasks. Alternating between chores throughout the day reduces the stress associated with a computer-centered lifestyle. Switch often between answering e-mails, returning calls, and writing a document.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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