Less is more?

When a human maintains an excessive food intake or an unbalanced nutritional diet, the results are visibly noticeable and the health effects measurable. Just in the past few decades the food selections made readily available to modern society has changed dramatically and the results are now apparent. Much higher rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and blood pressure issues. Just 30 years ago a 1979 commercial for Special K cereal presented a method to determine if a person was overweight and needed to eat something more healthy. Remember the “Pinch an Inch” commercial?

How many people CAN’T pinch an inch today?

So the effects of a modern nutritional environment on the physical body are well established, but how is the mind and spirit of a human being treated by what it consumes? If the consumption of mass produced and over processed foods in large quantities damages the body, it is likely the consumption of mass produced and over processed mental “nutrition” has similar consequences on the psyche.

The first clue to the answer is the rate of prescribing mental health drugs. Medication for depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other mind issues is up dramatically. A recent study reported that 1-in-4 women is dispensed medication for a mental health condition over the past decade.

The source of this trend could originate in part from electronic overload. A college in England performed a study using MRI analysis of brain activity and discovered that Internet addiction is linked with changes in the brain similar to those seen in people addicted to alcohol, cocaine and cannabis. The phenomenon is more pronounced in children and adolescents.

Some experts are promoting the idea of “email bankruptcy:”

All of this emailing is designed to keep me from real human interaction. And so I go about my day like I’m playing a Chucky Cheese arcade game of Whack-a-Mole. Knock one email back and two others pop up. Increasingly common is the sight of two young people dining out, each muted and bent by “BlackBerry hunch.” That’s just downright sad — sadder than two old people chewing quietly with nothing to say at a Denny’s buffet.

So here is my big idea.

I’m filing for email bankruptcy. This is not a novel idea. I remember reading an article about it years ago — that was before my emails climbed to unprecedented heights. I thought the author was a whiner. He was inefficient; clearly he didn’t have a balance in his life or his priorities straight. Now I think he was brilliant — a prophet before his time. About a month ago, I left my iPhone in a restaurant. No Good Samaritan emerged from this story — it was New York City for Pete’s sake. But whatever the new owner of my phone did that night, the next morning most of my inbox was mysteriously erased. After some panicked moments and two hours on the Apple help line, I came to the realization it was gone. And all at once a light went on. “So what?” said the light. Big honking deal! And you know what? Nothing bad happened. I didn’t miss any deadlines. The people that wanted me just emailed again. They hadn’t even realized I’d been playing hooky. They’d probably forgotten whose turn it was to LOL back. – Lee Woodruff

Does it sound like an extreme idea? Not too extreme for Volkswagen or Veritas. VW has adopted a policy of turning off its Blackbery servers so that employees do not receive emails after working hours. “The issue of employees using Blackberrys, computers and other devices out of working time is a growing one that needs to be addressed as it can be a source of stress,” Trades Union Congress (TUC) secretary general Brendan Barber.  At Veritas a “no email Fridays” policy forces employees to call by phone or walk over and visit a co-worker if they wish to converse or collaborate.

The mechanism behind how information overload decreases mental ability is described in the Scientific American article titled “Forgetting is the Key to a Healthy Mind.” In the same way that sleep is necessary to maintain physical development, purging mental input is critical to brain operation.

With food, multitasking, and possessions, less could be more:

~ by Dave on January 29, 2012.

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