Brain Food is just as important as what you feed your body.
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 your 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 health outcomes noted by researchers:
- Early fans of rock music (gothic, punk, heavy metal), African music (blues, hip-hop), and electronic dance music (techno/hard house) had elevated delinquency long-term, compared to fans of classical music and conventional pop.
- Among kids, screen time was positively associated with greater waist circumference (a measure of being overweight or obese) and lower HDL (good) cholesterol.
- Screen time (the use of tablets, cell phones, or television) close to bedtime can disrupt sleep and interfere with melatonin production.
- 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.
Here are some facts about kids and screen time/media use in the United States:
- 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-year-olds 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 high-tech, fast-paced lifestyle makes it difficult to set boundaries, doesn’t it?
So, 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 with God.
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” (Ecclesiastes 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 Corinthians 10:31).
 Ter Bogt, et al (2013). Pediatrics 131(2), e380-e389.
 J. Chaput, et al (2013). Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 38(5): 477-483.
 Mayo Clinic, Are Smartphones Disrupting Your Sleep? Mayo Clinic Study Examines the Question. 2013.
 M. Miller, et al, “Positive Emotions and the Endothelium: Does Joyful Music Improve Vascular Health?” Oral presentation, American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, 2008.
 Kaiser Foundation, Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8-18-Year-Olds. January 2010.
Katia Reinert, PhD, is the associate director of the Health Ministries Department for the General Conference.
Published in Elder's Digest