Is it possible that something almost 100 years old is making you sick? Television has been around since the late 1920s but the age of Covid-19 has seen a sharp uptick in TV consumption.

Of course, it’s not just TV. Computers, phones, and other devices connected to the all-knowing internet are also engaging us more hours of each day.

Distinguishing the Useful from the Harmful

Eyesafe Nielsen estimated that total screen time (TV, internet, apps) for U.S. adults increased from an average of 8+ hours per day prior to Covid-19 to a whopping 13+ hours per day in the 2nd quarter of 2020. That’s a lot to ingest.

The problem is we have trouble distinguishing between information that is useful to us and things that aren’t useful or even harmful.

A physician relative told me a few years back that he had totally changed his interactions with patients so that he started each appointment by asking if they had questions about some drug they had heard about on TV or the internet.

We see much the same thing here where clients become unnecessarily anxious about the market or economy because of something they saw on TV or read on the internet. Most of this is harmful or at best useless.

Filtering and Focusing

Neuroscientists estimate that the human brain has a processing capacity of about 120 bits of information per second. To put this in context, processing the information from someone speaking to you takes about 60 bits per second.

Some studies estimate that the sheer amount of data and information that we take in has increased more than 5 times over the past 25 years. Our brains aren’t equipped to process or store that amount of information.

The human brain is much more of a sampling machine than a storage machine.

Since we are limited in the amount of data we can handle at one time, what we pay attention to matters. Our attentional filter is one of the most essential resources at our disposal. The attentional filter works mostly in the background outside of our conscious awareness. This filter helps protect us by deciding what information gets passed along and what’s ignored.

Brain Chemistry Changes

We process information differently as we age. Author/Neuroscientist Dr. Daniel Levitin believes that our actual brain chemistry changes over time and this impacts every aspect of our lives.

In his excellent new book Successful Aging, Professor Levitin outlines how to live a happier, healthier, and wealthier life. One of his actionable ideas goes by the acronym COACH.

The COACH Principle has five parts: Curiosity, Openness, Association, (as in sociability), Conscientiousness, and Healthy practices.  He proffers that being interested in new things and spending time with new people improves brain health.

Levitin says “Aging can be a time of fulfillment and, for many people, the best part of their lives.”

Information Funnel

Regardless of age, things that come across our path each day fall either into the “can’t control” or “can control” buckets. This is where many of us struggle. Most of the items that create anxiety and tension fall clearly into the “can’t control” bucket. These include short-term market performance, the economy, politics, taxes, etc.

Information Funnel

In my experience, a good amount of our inability to focus our attention on the “can control” bucket comes from what St. Augustine called a “restless heart.” We far too often allow discontent and dissatisfaction to seep into our attentional gaze.

The information that we consume and the way we process this ultimately sets the trajectory of our life. Our brains and our bodies require a healthy diet. Start there. Ready for a real conversation?

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