Our modern-day life provides us with infinite opportunities, along with endless temptations.
We can eat whatever we want, whenever we want. We can immerse ourselves in the vast, enticing world of digital media. We can buy goods and services for rapid delivery with our fingertips or voice commands. But living this way as a new norm poses serious risks to our physical and mental states, our connections to others, and even to the world at large.
That actually means structural and functional changes have occurred to our brains. These shifts combined with the endless variety of temptations and distractions have made it easier to make choices that aren’t necessarily serving our health.
Social media is a prime example of a modern brain challenge.
We are built to be social creatures, to learn from our interactions with others through face and body cues, voice tone, even energy. Our brains are made to respond to signals and react. The hippocampus is constantly trying to compare our external environment to our “core belief” of how the world should be, created from a variety of things like genetics, epigenetics, prenatal exposures, and observations throughout our lives. When the external environment and our core beliefs don’t match, the brain triggers a stress response through the amygdala.
It’s easy to see how these signals can get crossed when we are relying on social media as our human interaction—we aren’t getting the real cues to successfully work off of and our brains are going haywire trying to make sense of it all.
Social media also confuses our brain’s reward system. When we get a “like” or we see people positively interacting with our posts, the nucleus accumbens lights up, makes us feel good, and encourages us to use social media more often.
This all leads to a certain level of chronic stress along with an addiction to that uplifting feeling of a social media interaction gone well. We pursue more digital connections but are usually doing so mindlessly. The deeper in it we go, the more isolated we actually are. The result is disconnection syndrome, a phrase coined by Drs. David and Austin Perlmutter to address this paradox of the things that are supposed to make us happy or make us temporarily feel good that are actually leading to these negative changes in the brain. Those changes impact our ability to make good decisions and we get stuck in a cycle of loneliness, anxiety, depression, and other negative mental and emotional symptoms.
The good news is that we can change them with a brain detox and overall healthier lifestyle choices. I was thrilled to sit down with Dr. David Perlmutter and his son Dr. Austin Perlmutter last week on The Doctor’s Farmacy to talk about how prevalent disconnection syndrome is and how we can clear the daily modern challenges being thrown at the brain. We can feel more connected to ourselves and others and more content without the need for outside validation using their steps.
I hope you’ll tune in.