Our brains are amazing supercomputers; helping us to plan, make decisions, remember, and solve complex problems. It also gets tired very easily and we don’t give it a lot of help in that department.
We abuse our brains daily. Whether it’s multi-tasking, taking on too much, or just not understanding the limitations of our brain.
If you were in a relationship with your brain it would have dumped you years ago!
Understanding brain fatigue
How many decisions can you make in a day?
You might think that depends on whether they are difficult decisions or not. Surely we can make a million little decisions and still have enough brainpower left over for the big ones.
Unfortunately, your brain doesn’t work like that.
So whether you are trying to decide if you should fly to London non-stop or if you should workout later that day – it takes almost the same amount of brainpower to come up with a decision and now you’ve used up your daily allowance of decisions by one.
The decision-making network of your brain doesn’t prioritize. Each decision (big or little) you make throughout the day is slowly causing brain fatigue.
And it’s not just decisions – every status update you read on Facebook results in a little bit more brain fatigue.
Every time you check e-mail – more brain fatigue.
Every time you look at the news, send a text… – more brain fatigue.
21st-century information overload
In the ’70s exciting technology was PacMan or Space Invaders – I loved both of those games and would play for hours on end. Fortunately, I had to go somewhere to play them – it wasn’t like I dragged a PacMan machine around with me.
But in today’s era with all our devices fitting into our pockets – we are so connected to technology – it’s become our master and we are the slave.
We take in five times as much information in 2011 as we did in 1986 – the equivalent of 175 newspapers! I’m going to take a wild guess that stat isn’t improving.
But our brains’ capacity for processing information remains at 120 bits per second.
In order to comprehend what one person is saying to us, we need to process 60 bits of information per second. If you are listening to two people at the same time you are at capacity and this is why it’s so hard to comprehend what two people are saying at the same time.
How many times do you try to listen to a conference call while checking e-mail at the same time? You think you’re being more efficient but in reality, you are just taxing your brain and causing it to fatigue sooner than if you just listened to the conference call and then checked your e-mail later.
We are overwhelming and overloading our brains to our detriment; and most of the time when we are doing this we are sitting down – that’s one of the worst things we can do for our brain!
Sitting is the new smoking
Our bodies were meant to be moving – not 24/7 but a lot more than we are actually doing.
The longer we sit the foggier our brain becomes.
When you’re moving, fresh oxygenated blood is being delivered to your brain – your brain is an oxygen-hog taking 25% of your total oxygen consumption. The brain needs fresh blood and oxygen constantly in order to keep the balance of your “feel-good” neurotransmitters and hormones.
Take, for example, dopamine which we need for motivation. If you’re sitting for too long and your brain is feeling deprived of oxygen the last thing it’s going to do is produce dopamine. Without dopamine good luck trying to finish writing that report! You can read more on dopamine and motivation here.
Super Brain’s Cryptonite is Time
In the morning you’re “Super Brain” with super-intelligent strength and powers but by evening you’re just “Brain.” Still the same adorable wrinkly 2 pound mass of tofu-like substance you were in the morning; just without the superpowers.
Understanding the limits of your brain is just as important as understanding it’s potential. If there is one word to keep in mind for keeping your brain running strong I would say it’s balance; knowing when to say no is as important as knowing when to say yes. If you want more tips on how to keep your brain running strong read my previous blog post “5 Simple Ways to Increase Your Brain Power.”
The bottom line is if you work with your brain instead of against it you’ll be able to reduce brain fatigue and keep your superpowers around a lot longer.