Written by Dr. Adam Coats
We live in a world where it’s second nature for us to send an e-mail during a meeting, text a friend while listening to a podcast, and work on our PowerPoint presentation while we watch TV and talk to our spouse. We live in a world of multitasking. We think we’re “getting stuff done,” but are we? In fact, what’s really happening is we’re just switching our attention from one task to the next multiple times back and forth because the brain isn’t designed to multitask. This “multitasking” results in us not devoting focused attention to a specific task, activity, or piece of information, as well as a decrease in the quality of our attention.
You might be thinking, “I don’t multitask” or “I don’t switch my attention very often.” But the truth is, you probably do and aren’t aware of it. A decade ago, we switched our attention every 3 minutes. In today’s world, we switch our attention every 45 seconds. Our world is being bombarded with constant distractions that cause us to switch our attention frequently. Interestingly enough, according to professor of informatics, Dr. Gloria Mark, people who are stressed switch their attention more often.
Why is any of this important? It’s important because all of this stress and multitasking reduces the activity of a very important network in our brain, the default mode network (DMN). The DMN is most active during periods of introspective thinking, when the mind is in a directed rest or idling state. The DMN coordinates the activity in
- networks that become active during a mental task;
- networks that are active during memory formation and when we pay attention;
- the salience network, which helps determine what we pay attention to;
- and the sensory-motor network, which integrates the brain’s control of body movements with sensory feedback.1
When our minds are busy with thinking things through, day dreaming, sleeping, and deep thinking, there is a greater increase in gamma waves. These gamma waves are involved in attention, memory building, and learning. Also, when our minds are in this state, there is more activity linked to positive emotions like happiness. In fact, PET scans and EEG recordings show that the portions of the brain responsible for happiness and peace increase in size when the DMN is active.1 When the brain is in this state of directed rest, there is a high level of background activity going on. We switch off our brain to switch on our brain to a mode of thinking that includes imaginations, self-perceptions, recollections, and ruminations. It also involves the ability to focus on a specific memory, and thinking through things from different angles while still being solution driven.1 The activity of the DMN increases the folds of the cortex in the brain. These folds allow us to process information faster, make decisions quicker, and improve our memory.1
As you can see, the DMN is extremely beneficial to our well-being. It allows us to increase our attention and focus, enhance our memory and learning, process information quicker and make decisions faster, all while increasing our levels of happiness and peace. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, CEO, employee, student, parent, athlete, or anyone in between, this is something you can benefit from. The question then becomes, “how do we increase the activity of the DMN in this chaotic world where stress levels are so high and there’s so many distractions making it very easy to switch our attention often?”
One thing you can do is eliminate distractions. I eliminated two hours per day of screen time on my iPhone by turning off all notifications, badges, and organizing my phone in a way that hid the apps that I use most in folders so that I don’t see them each time I open my phone. This has eliminated many distractions in my day to day life, therefore reducing the number of times I switch my attention in any given day. Because of this, my productivity levels have increased and the quality of my relationships have also increased.
Another thing you can do, perhaps the most important thing to do, is utilize chiropractic care. The chiropractic adjustment can help reduce stress and anxiety, and therefore increase health and decrease disease susceptibility.2 With less stress in one’s life, or the ability to better adapt to the stress in one’s life, one is less susceptible to switch their attention so often. This can increase introspective thinking and the activity of the DMN, which ultimately leads to all of the good results mentioned above.
It’s impossible to eliminate all of the stress and distractions in our lives. That’s why chiropractic care is so important. We can take many steps to eliminate certain stressors and distractions, but there will always be some form of each present in our lives. By ensuring that the joints of the spine are moving properly through chiropractic adjustments, the brain can get the nutrients and stimulation it needs to help us deal with and manage our stress levels. This ultimately leads to less distractions in our lives because our levels of stress are lower, which ultimately leads to increased activation of the DMN.
- Leaf, C., (2013). Switch On Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
- Chestnut, J. L. The 14 Foundational Premises for The Scientific and Philosophical Validation of The Chiropractic Wellness Paradigm.