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Last Updated on February 25, 2018

The Obsession with New Things Is Burdening Our Brain

The Obsession with New Things Is Burdening Our Brain

Commercial organizations depend and thrive on our natural curiosity. That’s right, companies know that people are driven by a strong obsession for obtaining new information, products and services. Just take a look at cellphone companies, and how they constantly find ways to upgrade you to new phones and contracts. Also take a look at your inbox. You’ll no doubt find countless emails arriving every week that are ads and promotions for new stuff.

Now, it’s not that new stuff is bad. It’s just that when we attempt to consume too much new stuff it can be damaging to both our well-being – and our purse.

With companies desperate to keep introducing new and upgraded products, it’s no wonder that low-quality, or even faulty items are becoming more common. And it’s the same with information. There’s so much of it online, that the quality has undoubtedly become degraded. This can negatively impact our psyche and spiritual health.

If you look carefully at the information on offer, you’ll see that only about 10% of it is of high-quality. The rest is fake, throwaway or just pure garbage. To use Hollywood as an example, you’ll tend to find that approximately 10% of all movies are exceptionally good. The other 90% of movies range from average to bad. Unfortunately, as this latter category makes up the bulk of movies coming out of Hollywood – they’re most likely to be the bulk of our viewing time too.

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Recommendation Is a Curse

We usually find out about all this new stuff from “big names” such as celebrities, experts, authority figures and popular online platforms.

Let’s say you fancy purchasing a new book from Amazon. You head over to their site and are immediately presented with an eye-catching section called “New Recommendations.” This is where you’re likely to go to when browsing for a new book purchase.

It’s the same with songs. If you are looking for a new artist or album, Google Play, iTunes or Spotify will be happy to help you out by instantly showing the latest releases.

How about movies? You can hear about these in many ways, but it’s common for Grammy or Oscar award-winning movies to be titles that most people would be keen to watch.

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It appears that our reliability on “authority” for recommendations and good information started decades ago. These were the days before the internet. Consumers had to rely on “big names” to recommend good stuff (eg., movies, music and products). Information was the same too. People relied heavily on experts to tell them facts, and to give opinions on what information was valid and relevant.

When Obsession Becomes Exhaustion

Despite what you might think, the traditional perception about experts is rapidly being proven to be outdated. Clearly, reviews by experts of books, songs and movies don’t represent the true value of these things.  In many cases, the so-called experts may present low-quality stuff to the public as today’s audience has mostly stopped paying attention to what really constitutes good quality. Read more to find out Why It’s Time to Reboot Expertise

As an example for you, think of some of the latest mobile apps that online stores push. Despite impressive screenshots and features, it only takes a minute of using the apps to discover that they are next to worthless. Luckily, you have an uninstall option.

It’s not just products that can leave a bad taste in our mouths – it’s also information. The internet is a great thing, but its downside is that it offers us too much choice – and way too much information. (And often this information is unreliable or blatantly wrong.) It’s no wonder that many of us suffer from “new stuff fatigue”. We’re literally bombarded 24/7 from all sides with ads, news and information.

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Let’s be honest, our brains have limited space and energy, and too much new stuff will have a tendency to burn them out. Not only that, but when the majority of the new information is bad information, this leaves little space to accept and process good information. Find out here How Clutter Drains Your Brain (and What You Can Do About It)

Everything You Take in Matters

Our obsession with new things is in our nature, but we can turn things around by controlling what we consume.

For instance, everyone of us can take control of the information we receive. This can be achieved by only selecting and picking the best and most relevant information from online and offline sources. By doing this, we’ll then have the time and space to properly study and absorb the information – instead of having our minds constantly overloaded.

Once you start being selective with information, you’ll quickly discover that the recommendations of experts are no longer necessary. You’ll unearth an intellectual freedom that you never knew was possible. And you’ll begin to enjoy information again, just like you did when you were a small, curious child.

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While it may initially be hard to take control of incoming information, don’t let laziness stop you. Make a determined effort to cut out the dross. This way, you’ll leave yourself with only valuable and appropriate information.

Here’s an idea for you: instead of watching movies based on what’s featured in the latest magazines or online sites, dig into the genre you like, and check out gems you’ve missed all these years. You’ll find that these movies tug on your heart strings. They will be movies that you genuinely enjoy, rather than movies that you’re expected to enjoy.

It’s the same with music. Forget the latest releases, step back in time and choose to listen to artists who made you happy when you were younger. As soon as these songs start playing, you’ll feel a tingle in your spine – and an accompanying lift in your mood. Truly, you’ll be energized by the songs, and you’ll have found your way back to what you really enjoy.

But please don’t take my word for it. Try being selective with your choice of entertainment, information and products, and see what difference it makes to your life. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

More by this author

Brian Lee

Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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