Popcorn Brain: Signs, Causes, And A Few Ways To Deal With It

Popcorn Brain: Signs, Causes, And A Few Ways To Deal With It

This is a new terminology in modern psychology for the reducing attention span and other brain dysfunctions

Neha SinghUpdated: Sunday, April 21, 2024, 03:35 AM IST
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Do you have a constant need to check your phone every few minutes? Do you have trouble focusing on a task for long periods of time? Perhaps even worse, can’t you read even a few pages from a book that you used to finish in less than a week? In that case, you may have a "popcorn brain."

The term popcorn brain refers to a condition defined by a lack of attention and focus. According to counselling psychologist and trauma-focused therapist Bhakti Joshi, "the term popcorn brain was coined in 2011 by a researcher by the name of David Levy, which refers to a person’s attention rapidly jumping from thought to thought like the kernels popping in popcorn."

This reduction in attention span and ‘jumping jack’ syndrome is not a Gen Z asset. It can be seen in various age groups. Chandresh Singh, a 35-year-old interior designer, has similar experience, which he attributes to the pandemic. He says, “Amid lockdown, my use of social media has increased, as there was not much to do. But now it seems it has become a habit. I try to avoid, but somehow, I keep getting back to several apps. I am not able to give full concentration to my work.”

Signs

Difficulty in finishing a task: Concentrating on a single task is difficult for a prolonged time. Task that you start doing is usually left incomplete, as you may suddenly be demotivated to complete it.

Easily getting distracted: As the mind develops a nature and habit, it continuously jumps from one thought to another. It leads the brain to think about all related and unrelated things, resulting in getting distracted with the task at hand.

Controlling the situation: Due to a lack of concentration, the brain is unable to comprehend sense of accomplishment. Despite doing multiple tasks, it has an uncontrollable urge to do multiple tasks to feel in control of the situation.

Forget important tasks: The preoccupation of the brain makes it hard to store all information. It results in impacting the immediate, short-term, and long-term memory of the person. The brain is unable to process information like which task is more important than the other.

Other signs: Include confusion in recalling information, clouded thoughts, gloomy mood, poor performance in school or the office, poor communication or interpersonal skills, difficulty actively listening to instructions, and repeating mistakes.

Causes

The root cause of this phenomenon is the digital world. According to some experts, dopamine, a neurotransmitter, is essential for sensations of pleasure, motivation, attention, and happiness. Notifications, likes from social media platforms offer fast rewards, strengthening the brain’s tendency to seek pleasure. Social media serves as a quick-fix drug, offering brief moments of happiness. Our brains have evolved to adapt to the fast and continuous flow of information through this constant action.

Apart from this, Shreya Malik, Lead Clinical Psychologist at Lissun, mentions various other causes for popcorn brain. “Lack of proper rest and sleep, excessive use of devices and social media, fear of not being up to date, multi-tasking, chronic exhaustion, mental fatigue, and long hours of screen time. Sometimes these causes create confusion and blurriness in the brain, which results in a popcorn brain,” she adds.

Ways to deal

One simple way to deal with this issue is to stay away from social media for some stipulated time. However, giving up social media might not be an option for everyone. There are a few tips by Dr. Neerja Agarwal, therapist and co-founder of Emoneeds, that you can consider:

Mindfulness: It is the practice of intentionally bringing your attention to the present moment without judgment. It allows you to focus more effectively on the present. Techniques such as deep breathing, body scans, and mindful observation can help you develop mindfulness skills. 

Prioritisation: Breaking tasks into smaller, manageable chunks can make them less overwhelming and help you focus on completing one task at a time. Tools like to-do lists, task managers, or project management software can assist in organising and prioritising tasks effectively. 

Limit Distractions: Create an environment that eliminates distractions as much as possible. This may include turning off notifications on your phone, finding a quiet workspace, using noise-cancelling headphones, or setting boundaries with colleagues or family members. By proactively managing distractions, you can create a space where you can concentrate fully on your work. 

Structured Breaks: Taking regular breaks is essential for maintaining focus and preventing burnout. Structured breaks allow you to recharge your mental energy and avoid becoming fatigued or overwhelmed. During breaks, engage in activities that help you relax and recharge, such as stretching, going for a walk, practising meditation, or simply stepping away from your work to rest your eyes and clear your mind. 

Healthy Habits: A healthy lifestyle is foundational to cognitive function and focus. Adequate sleep is crucial for overall well-being. Regular exercise improves mood, reduces stress, and enhances cognitive function. Prioritising these healthy habits can provide the energy and mental clarity needed to sustain focus and productivity throughout the day.

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