Avoid disconnection syndrome and learning the skill of criticial thinking
Do you have ‘Disconnection ‘Syndrome’? Understanding your brain-style today will affect your ‘critical thinking’ tomorrow.
We readily accept that our daily lifestyle choices impact and affect our heart health, immune system, energy levels, weight, and general well-being.
Research is now revealing that our current lifestyle choices and habits are exceedingly influential in affecting our brain health. This is exacerbated by the fact that we are living in a digital era!
The worldwide pandemic has ignited a ‘tectonic shift’ in our behaviour. Life happens on our screens: our work, attending weddings, socialising, attending funerals, baby showers, and ordering food, etcetera. This is excessive, and hence many people are suffering screen fatigue – our eyes are constantly fixated on our computers, mobile phones, and TVs often late into the night!
It is devastating to read that in the last +/- 14 months, burnout, depression and suicide rates have all skyrocketed around the world. In the USA alone, one to two Medical Professionals (Doctors) commit suicide each day. The number of antidepressant prescriptions has increased by more than 400% in the USA since the 1990s (National Center for Health Statistics, USA 2010). We could add many more statistics to this bleak picture, but let’s instead look at: ‘the problem behind the problem’.
In this fast-paced, digital world, our ‘brain health’ is taking the strain. People are reporting feeling fearful, anxious and overwhelmed. David Perlmutter, MD and Austin Perlmutter, MD (Authors of the Book: Brain Wash) call this ‘Disconnection Syndrome’. They describe a vicious circle of looking for ‘instant gratification,’ leading to chronic use of short-term ‘quick fixes, leading to chronic stress, chronic illness, and chronic inflammation. They define Disconnection Syndrome as ‘a state of separation from sustainable happiness’.
Many of my coaching clients worldwide are openly sharing that they feel unhappy, fearful and anxious daily and that a specific life issue or event doesn’t necessarily trigger these feelings. Many of them are realising that these feelings could be connected to the +/- 8 hours (and for some people +/-12 hours) hours spent behind their computers daily. At the end of the day, they are seriously tired and express that they feel ‘severely exhausted’. This often leads to grabbing a quick fix, high carbohydrate, unhealthy meal, and perhaps binge-watching Sport or Netflix. After this, they are desperate for a good night’s sleep. This is impossible, especially if our eyes and brains have had an onslaught of ‘blue light’ (from our various digital devices) throughout the day and into the night. Blue light inhibits the production of melatonin, which is necessary for deep, restorative sleep. Deep sleep ensures that we wake up feeling refreshed, ready for a day of critical thinking and good decision-making.
If your day is similar to the one described above, you may be suffering from ‘Disconnection Syndrome’. These excessive screen activities keep your amygdala (the emotional centre of your brain) engaged and ‘fired up.’ The problem is that these activities also inhibit the functioning of your Prefrontal Cortex (your ‘executive function’ of your brain).
Are you experiencing ‘Disconnection ‘Syndrome?’ Here are some of the characteristics outlined in the Book: ‘BrainWash‘:
you are easily ‘hijacked’ by mindless activities;
you often experience feelings of loneliness (no family, friends of the community to turn to) and perhaps even aloneness (even if you have people that you can ‘call on’, you don’t feel like they are the people who can support you);
you feel unhealthy (you are carrying excess weight, often tired, and suffer low energy (you could unknowingly have chronic inflammation in your body));
you often crave instant gratification (food, sex, drugs, sleeping pills, whatever vice serves you);
you feel that you don’t have ‘high quality, deep and true friendships, and relationships (at work. and in your home life);
you are suffering from chronic stress and feel anxious a lot of the time;
you are a slave to impulsivity’ (often wanting ‘instant gratification’ or quick fixes for ‘consumption’, more energy, or even online shopping);
If you are ‘suffering’, you may be wondering how and in what way you can address this and strengthen your Prefrontal Cortex so that you can enhance your ‘critical thinking’ and decision making.
Research on this goes back to Daniel Kahneman’s groundbreaking work in his book ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’. He was the first psychologist to win a Nobel prize for Economics in 2002. He is also known as the godfather of behavioural economics. He describes two systems of thinking: System 1: ‘SLOW thinking’, and System 2: ‘FAST thinking’. Both are useful and necessary. However, we can be a slave to System 2: ‘FAST thinking’, the unconscious, automatic thinking with little self-awareness.
The big question is HOW to develop System 1: ‘SLOW thinking’, which is described as intentional thinking, influenced by facts, logic and evidence, where we seek missing information to make really good decisions.
An excellent place to start is by understanding your Brain Style. This helps us strengthen the resiliency and plasticity of our Prefrontal Cortex and, in turn, harnesses the ability to ‘think critically‘. When you understand your Brain Style, you can focus on cognitive flexibility. In this way, can you choose to think differently instead of living on ‘automatic pilot’.
Brain Styles help us to understand how the emotional and rational parts of our brain work closely together. In other words, we should embrace ‘SLOW thinking’ to optimise decision-making.
For clarity, we’ll discuss Brain Styles on three separate continuums. Neither side of each continuum is better than the other. Knowledge is power, or as Aristotle said: ‘Knowing yourself is the beginning of wisdom.
The first Brain Style continuum – FOCUS :
How does your brain focus? What do you notice/observe first? Do you prefer to notice and gather data on a situation? Or are you on the other side of the continuum, where you pay attention to people, emotions and the ‘feeling state’ / ’emotional energy’ in a room?
The second Brain Style continuum – DECISIONS :
How does your brain make decisions? How do you balance risks versus opportunities? Do you tend to analyse and evaluate issues and work hard to avoid risks? Or do you prefer novelty and change / innovative ideas and options?
The third Brain Style continuum – DRIVE :
How does your brain balance motivation for today versus motivation for the future? In other words, are you usually motivated by practicalities and taking action to drive results? Or are you more idealistic and spend time focusing on a vision for the future?
Your Brain Styles can change over time. Understanding your ‘current’ Brain Style helps you develop cognitive flexibility and critical thinking skills.
Managing our life and work challenges in this pandemic world is stressful. Keeping your brain sharp, healthy and able to handle exponential change is a subject that desperately needs attention in business today. We are indeed the architects of our brain’s plasticity! We should take the time to learn actionable techniques and skills to improve our ‘critical thinking’.