Addiction, Health,

Is Multi-Tasking Good for Your Mental Health!

Posted on February, 09 2022
Is Multi-Tasking Good for Your Mental Health!

Is Multi-Tasking Good for Your Mental Health?

The common question I get asked in seminars and workshops is, does multitasking affect our physical and mental health? And my simple answer is always ‘YES’, it does.

On surface you feel like it is increasing efficiency and saving you time and energy, and most people are proud of their multi-tasking abilities and carry it as if it was a badge of honour. But a large number of studies have shown and confirmed that multi-tasking is not healthy and can have adverse effects on levels of productivity and concentration. 

Effect of Multi-tasking Varies Depending on The Stimuli

Research shows that multi-tasking is ok if the tasks involved do not use the same stimuli, such as reading a message from the laptop while listening to music. Like most of us listened to music while doing studying math’s as it helped us focus. Our brain is not designed to deal with two or more of same stimulus challenges at the same time. 

The common example is that while driving a vehicle and texting on a phone at the same time is considered very dangerous and legally, we get fined for doing that. You are using the same visual stimulus as the stimulus are different. But we don’t get fined for listening to music while driving. In first scenario, both tasks are looking for the same limited focus. Although it appears you are multi-tasking, your eyes can only be actively engaged with one or the other. 

So logically rather than doing two things at once, actually your focus is rapidly switching from one task to the other, and back again. If your focus is engrossed on the phone for a milli-second too long, the task of consciously driving the vehicle ceases, and calamity may follow.

“We have become masters of multi-switching not multi-tasking.”

Another example is when you are trying to listen to several conversations around you at the same time. Practically it is impossible to listen to two people who are talking to you simultaneously, because your auditory stimulus becomes overwhelmed.

Effect of Multi-tasking on Your Memory

Multi-tasking can simply hard your brain’s ability of memorizing. When you are multi-tasking, your focus is trying to reach different parts of the brain to retrieve or store information at the same time and this put a lot of pressure on brain and its energy is drained multi-fold times. It is just like you trying to take out put back stuff in multiple drawers. More you multi-task, the more of your mental energy drains, and you become less productive and more absent-minded. This is because your brain needs break to regain its energy. 

Even when you could complete the two tasks effectively, you will perhaps not be able to recall how you completed those tasks. This is because our brain does not have the ability to fully focus on two or several tasks at the same time.

Each time you multi-task, your brain becomes a juggling act.  When you multitask, you are weakening your mind’s investment towards each task. 

When Multi-taskers Think They Perform Better 

Research headed by Zheng Wang of Ohio State University showed that people who were text messaging while being asked to focus on the pictures showed on a computer had decreased levels of performance. 

What makes this finding even more worrying is that those subjects who were asked to multi-task using the same visual stimulus, believed they performed better, although the results showed the opposite.

Their ability to focus on pictures showed on their computer dropped up to 50% even though they thought they were performing perfectly. The same study participants were asked to multi-task using different stimuli, such as visual and auditory, and were found to have reduced levels of performance as much as 30%. 

Professor Wang stated that performance level perception when multi-tasking is not the same, as the results proved. Researchers have also found that media multi-tasking increases your risks of developing impaired cognitive control.

Mindfulness and other self-help community describe multi-tasking as “performing several tasks sub-optimally”.  Loss of productivity is not the only that suffers, unfortunately, it puts demanding burden on the psychological and emotional abilities. This results in amassed stress, which is already a very big problem for many, if not most. 

Technology today has made us addicted to multi-tasking unconsciously, we are not aware that we are doing it and it is affecting out health and happiness. We need to make conscious effort to become aware of this addiction and remove it or minimize it so our brain can relax and in return we get peace of mind for living a happy stress-free life.   



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