Technology is a major part of how we live, learn, work, and participate in each other’s lives. Because technology is so engrained in our modern society, it’s easy to vilify technology as one of the major negative influences on our happiness. Although technology may be a barrier to happiness in some ways, Heart+Mind’s most recent RoundTable discussion spurred thinking about ways technology can aid in happiness when we are in control of how we leverage it.
The goal of our October RoundTable session was to bring people and businesses together to discuss what happiness is and how technology plays a role as a barrier or promoter of it. Is technology a friend or foe to happiness? The panel of topic experts included Chris Wasden of Happify Health, author and practitioner Carrie Wrigley, and our very own Chris Tonay, Senior Director at Heart+Mind.
Technology as a Foe
Yes, technology can be our foe. Some of the more obvious ways tech plays against happiness we discussed include the following:
- Technostress, a term used to describe the type of stress that stems from the use of various technologies we engage with daily, has increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the widely adapted use of various technologies for those working from home.
- Technology can also interfere with our happiness when it becomes an obstacle that keeps us from contributing to our own well-being.
- Negative online engagement can manifest in negative thoughts and behaviors.
Technology as a Friend
However, technology is here to stay, and there are ways we can use technology as an aid to our happiness. We offer four shared in our discussion:
1. Promoting Positive Psychology
Positive psychology can go a long way when thinking of ways to be happier in your day-to-day life. People who think positively, behave in a positive way, surround themselves with hope, and are generally happier people. Those who are typically negative, use negative phrases, and express themselves negatively are less likely to be happy.
We can utilize technology to aid in developing a positive psychology. Apps such as Happify, Personal Zen, Mindfulness Daily, and many others, have daily routines to practice positivity. Managing your social media feed by unfollowing the pages and friends that don’t bring happiness into your life can help reduce or eliminate the bombardment of negativity.
2. Tech-Aided Social Engagement
Since the pandemic, we have all been encouraged to keep our distance from each other for the sake of our health. Unfortunately, this has bled into a more figurative definition of social distancing, as we find ourselves distancing from others emotionally and mentally. Technology can help to alleviate this feeling of distance by creating avenues of support through virtual meetups, like-minded discussion via specific content groups online, or simply sharing funny memes with our friends and family.
“People that are happy are engaged in something that is bigger than themselves. Whether it be an organization, a cause, a church, [something] that they believe that they’re part of that is making a difference, and that they’re an element of… gives them greater meaning in their life.”Chris Wasden, Happify Health
3. Developing Positive Relationships Online
It’s important to evaluate how we engage with the world using technology. Scrolling through your social media feed isn’t going to give you the positive effect to your psychology that you may be looking for. It’s important to engage with others via social media in a kind and helpful manner to foster happiness. Actively engaging in social connection using technology, rather than using technology to compare ourselves to each other, can help to improve our positive thinking .
“[Happy people] don’t just sit and scroll down social media feeds all day long and not talk to other people. They actually have physical human interaction and relationships with people that are meaningful and important in their life.”Chris Wasden, Happify Health
4. Sharing Accomplishments and Achievements
Achieving a goal and progressing in life generally brings happiness. Documenting and sharing our successes with others helps us feel accomplished and accountable. Using apps to measure accomplishments and set new goals can help improve positive self-evaluation.
However, online sharing of accomplishments can be a double-edged sword when it leads to comparison.
“[Happy people] can see progress in their lives and they realize that they’re on a never-ending road of progress and they don’t get bogged down because they’re not the best or the smartest or anything else. What they do is they say, ‘this is where I am today, and if I do the following things, I can then measure my progress and achievement over time.’”Chris Wasden, Happify Health
Being Mindful of Technology Effects
We can use technology to learn new habits that facilitate healthy positive thinking by searching for interesting articles, reading through blogs, immersing ourselves into tech-based training modules (i.e., apps and websites), and/or participating in an online community focusing on topics that are meaningful to you can help exercise positive thought.
We must also look to ourselves to have a better understanding of where our thoughts and emotions are coming from, and practice removing ourselves from the bad to see the good. Technology can help motivate this self-evaluation, but we must also try to remove ourselves from technology every now and then to truly see what goes on behind the curtains of our thinking.
“I think it’s all about the relationship, the technology, it can be so, so positive, but we need to check in with ourselves and our bodies. How do I feel when I’m doing this? Do I feel tense as I’m writing this email, how do I feel, what am I feeling in my body? You know, is there tension? Is there openness? Technology is a tool [but] it’s about how we’re relating to that technology.”Chris Tonay, Heart+Mind Strategies
Take It to the Next Level
At Heart+Mind, we are passionate about connecting the emotional and rational elements of the human motivation to resonate with people while empowering choice. Technology can facilitate genuine human connection between what we are thinking and what we are feeling to shape what we actually do.
Strive to take further action to reach a higher goal and progress forward one step at a time. Do this as in your personal and professional life. And apply it to how you engage with staff and the markets your serve. Championing the human means embracing and facilitating happiness. Ultimately, every human has to choose to pursue happiness – we hope these tools give you some ways to leverage technology to do so.
Additional Links and Resources
Pursuing Happiness in a Digital World: The importance of social networks and power of human connections in promoting personal happiness–and how technology can help or hinder those connections.
Action for Happiness Movement: Helping people take action for a kinder, happier world.
Good Think: This website offers free helpful resources on how to harness the Happiness Advantage in your life. They also offer other services to organizations: Speaking, Consulting, Training.
Digital Wellness Institute: The Digital Wellness Institute exists to equip leaders and changemakers with tools to assess and address digital wellness in order to foster a more positive digital culture around the world.
Digital Well-Being Lab: The Digital Well-Being Lab focuses on studying online behavior and interactions with digital devices to address a key question: How can we optimize the use of digital technologies to promote well-being?