You’ve probably heard that what you feed your body is one of the key factors for health and longevity. However, while what you eat does impact your health, what you feed your brain is just as important. You “feed” your brain through what you see, hear, read, and think. In fact, scientific studies have documented that what you see (e.g., movies, soap operas, video games), what you read (e.g., books, magazines), what you listen to (e.g., music, media, people), and how long you spend on these activities can have a strong influence on your cognitive ability over time. This is true for both children and adults. Here are some healthy outcomes noted by researchers:
• Early fans of rock music (gothic, punk, heavy metal), African music (blues, hip-hop), and electronic dance music (techno/hardhouse) had elevated delinquency long-term, compared to fans of classical music and conventional pop.1
• Among kids, screen time was positively associated with greater waist circumference (a measure of being overweight or obese) and lower HDL (good) cholesterol.2
• Screen time (the use of tablets, cell phones, or television) close to bedtime can disrupt sleep and interfere with melatonin production.3
• Listening to uplifting music may be good for your cardiovascular system due to increased blood flow resulting from dilation of the inner lining of the blood vessels.4 Here are some facts about kids and screen time/media use in the United States:5
• Screen time use: On average, 8- to 18-year-olds spend 4.5 hours daily watching TV, videos, or DVDs (more than 11 hours if you count all media).
• Media access: More than 71 percent of young people have a television in their bedrooms, half have a video game player, and more than one-third have a computer and Internet access.
• Parental rules: Only 28 percent of all 8- to 18-yearolds say their families have rules about how much time they spend watching TV.
• Media use decreases by 3 hours per day in homes
with any media rules.
But how about adults like you and me? Today’s hightech,
fast-paced lifestyle makes it difficult to set boundaries,
doesn’t it? Some think multi-tasking is a virtue and might
manage to surf the Internet while on a conference call, text
while driving, or view multiple screens at the same time while working. Ready for the truth? Studies have shown
that people who multi-task are not as efficient in what they
do. Not only that, they may experience more rapid cognitive
decline and memory impairment over time.
So, as an elder, how can you find effective ways to model
what and how to feed your brain? Here are some tips:
• Set limits for screen time, including at bedtime, both for you and for the little ones in your home. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 2 hours of screen time per day.
• Take a mental inventory of the kind of music you listen to at home, at work, and in your car, and the kinds of things you read and see.
• Choose only uplifting music and value-rich reading
material that builds character and deepens your relationship
In summary, if you want to keep your brain sharp and
optimize your cognitive abilities, choose wisely what music
you listen to, what you see, what you read, and how much
time you spend on these activities. The Bible says, “There
is time for everything under the sun” (Eccl. 3:10, NIV). If
you choose to spend your time unwisely, feeding your brain
with poor-quality material in music, images, or words, you
may see the negative impact in your memory, mood, cognitive
abilities, and physical health. On the other hand, if you
choose wisely what and how you feed your brain, you will
not only increase the chances of enjoying a full abundant
life, but more importantly, you will glorify God (John 10:10,
NIV; 1 Cor. 10:31).
1 Ter Bogt, et al (2013). Pediatrics 131(2), e380-e389.
2 J. Chaput, et al (2013). Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 38(5): 477-483.
3 Mayo Clinic, Are Smartphones Disrupting Your Sleep? Mayo Clinic Study Examines the Question. 2013.
4 M. Miller, et al, “Positive Emotions and the Endothelium: Does Joyful Music Improve Vascular Health?” Oral presentation, American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, 2008.
5 Kaiser Foundation, Generation M2
: Media in the Lives of 8-18-Year-Olds.
Katia Reinert is director of the Health Ministries
Department for the North American Division