Digital Detox

The Benefits of a Digital Detox

By Dr Tara Swart

Neuroscience and understanding the brain is far more important for business than we might first imagine. Neuroscience-based coaching can help create the ideal environment and mindset in which business leaders can thrive, enjoy their work, and build happier teams too.

In today’s extremely frenetic work environment, some reports say that we check our phone up to 85 times or more per day. This means our brains have to process a vast amount of information on an hourly basis. How can we ensure that we look after our brain health in this demanding context? Just like athletes train and care for their bodies, professionals should look after their brain’s health in order to enhance performance at work, and realise that our bodies are not simply a convenient vehicle for moving the brain from meeting to meeting.

Our brains are not programmed to always be ‘switched on’, so a digital detox can be a good way of giving your brain a rest and reducing your stress levels. The increased space and time which a digital detox provides can even boost your creativity, as well as allowing you to spend more time with family and friends.

Taking a break from devices can improve your performance in a number of ways:

  • Improved Sleep and Rest for the Brain
      • Using a phone or device in bed or just before sleep can negatively impact the quality of your sleep.
      • Melatonin – the hormone that helps regulate our sleep – is released by the pineal gland into the bloodstream. The blue light that phone and laptop screens emit confuses the gland because darkness is what triggers it to start working.
      • Population norm studies have shown that a disturbed night’s sleep can account for a drop of 5-8 IQ points the following days.
      • Long term lack of sleep can even increase chances of developing a dementing disease like Alzheimer’s, because our brain’s glymphatic system removes toxin build-up from the brain whilst we sleep.
  • Social Bonding/Spending Time with Family
      • Oxytocin, the “bonding hormone” – released into the blood via the pituitary gland during times of trust and bonding – is likely to be more in abundance in a situation where people can communicate and interact freely over a shared experience, as well as through appropriate physical contact.
      • Putting down our devices and spending time interacting with loved ones can help to increase levels of oxytocin, which can improve communication and trust.
  • Combatting Stress
    • We generally feel under constant pressure to respond to emails and messages immediately. Being aware of emails coming into your inbox can cause stress and an increase in levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Some studies have even suggested that knowledge of unread emails in your inbox can reduce your effective IQ.
    • Further, our brains are not good at multi-tasking, so having to constantly overlap work and leisure by, for example, responding to emails at the weekend, can tire us out mentally.
    • It is important that we use our weekends and holidays to give our brains time and space to recharge and relax. A digital detox over the weekend can be the first step towards achieving this.

Dr Tara Swart is a renowned neuroscientist, leadership coach, medical doctor and award-winning author. She will present on Neuroscience for Leadership in Johannesburg on 25th May 2017, hosted by Business Results Group & the Gordon Institute of Business Science. For more information: www.brg.co.za/events; 0861 247328; rsvp@brg.co.za