The negatives of multi-tasking

The Scoop

Multi-tasking isn't good for the brain and it's certainly not good for your golf

Have you had the experience recently of sitting in a restaurant and observing the strange behaviour of humans when they are supposed to be enjoying a special occasion or the joy of each other’s company?

Is there anything more sad to see than two people sat together shoveling food into their mouths, occasionally uttering a few words but in the main spending most of their time checking emails or updating Facebook or Twitter pages?

Apparently one top London chef has recently banned people from taking pictures of their food when it arrives at the table as they then want to ‘share’ their experience with online friends – as opposed to actually putting the food into their mouth and having the experience of tasting and enjoying the food in front of them.

Food which has been so lovingly and expensively created becomes a secondary experience to telling others about the experience!

The ability to multi-task has in recent times been worn as something of a badge of honour by ‘busy people’ in the belief that it is somehow a great skill to have.

We hear endless conversations about spinning plates and what individual or gender can or can’t multi-task. I haven’t, as far as I am aware in the last few years, heard too many people say ‘Do you know what, I just do one thing at a time and really pay attention to what I am doing’.

Well, it would seem the multi-taskers, as well as being part of a myth, may well be doing themselves actual harm from a brain perspective. I firmly believe this is one of the reasons we find it so hard to concentrate on one shot at a time out on the course. We all know that is what should happen – but does it happen?

Well, it would seem the multi-taskers, as well as being part of a myth, may well be doing themselves actual harm from a brain perspective.

A study from the University of Sussex suggests multi tasking may be actually shrinking our brain. The study, led by Kep Kee Loh, found men and women who frequently used several types of technology at the same time had significantly less grey matter in a key part of the brain. The researchers began by asking 75 healthy men and women how often they divided their attention between different types of technology. This could mean sending a text message while listening to music and checking email, or speaking on the phone while watching TV and surfing the web.

The volunteers were then given brain scans, which revealed they had less grey matter in a region called the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). One of the worrying aspects of the research is the fact that the ACC is involved in processing emotion.

The findings of the research project held to be true even when differing aspects of personality were taken into account.

“Media multi-tasking is becoming more prevalent in our lives and thus increasing our concerns about its impact on our cognition and social-emotional well-being,” said Kep Kee Loh.

Your brain actually craves the experience of being absorbed in something, to be absorbed and fascinated by what is going on in the here and the now, as opposed to being in this constant state of low-level distraction where we are exposed to so much but actually experience so very little. The concept of mindfulness has become increasingly popular in recent times and the science behind it seems to be pretty clear; mindfulness is really good for our brain. What is the principle of mindfulness? In essence, simply paying attention to what is actually happening to you right now in this unique moment.

Could there ever be a better game than golf to work on that skill?

When you get to the course next time make a commitment to leave behind all of your technology – your phone, your emails. I know it feels like you are missing a part of you but just try to play nine or 18 holes without checking anything from the technological world.

Promise just for once to play each shot for its own sake. Aim to create each shot as a solution to the situation that confronts you. All of the external factors like wind direction, lie, pin position and the slope of the ground require you to be focusing on what is going on in the here and now.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised just how absorbing golf can be.

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National Club Golfer