When contemplating about life experiences, being happy and living longer, the plausible place to go is technology and innovation. While there have been many, way too many to even mention, technological and medical advances which are making people’s lives easier, these may not be the only places to look for happiness.
Do technological advances that make life easier lead to happiness? There are several books recently published that tell us ‘No’. The authors believe these advances are causing people to be unhappy. At the latest international TED conference, talks were presented on 3 simple things that the presenters believe can improve and even lengthen lives. The three topics were:
— Face-to-Face social interaction
— Knowing when to turn off your smartphone
— Chasing meaning not happiness
Face-To-Face Social Interaction. While common thought would predict that avoiding certain behaviors like smoking can increase the length of your life, but actually close personal relationships can have a bigger impact on lengthening a person’s life. According to psychologist and author, Susan Pinker, face-to-face contact matters. Friendship and love help heal. Children learn better in a close social environment. Creating a personal “village” around us makes us happier and can lead to a longer, healthier life. See more.
Knowing When to Turn Off Your Smartphone. Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, the majority of a person’s personal time is spent in front of a screen. Of this screen time, 3 times more is spent in front of apps that make us unhappy. And less than 10 minutes a day is spent on each app that makes us feel happy like a yoga or reading app. The big problem is most apps on your smartphone or tablet are endless. Before there were smartphones, laptops or the internet, activities people did for pleasure had stopping cues. A stopping cue is basically a signal that it is time to move on or to do something else. For example, reading the newspaper, its stopping cue is the end of the paper. Reading the news on a smartphone just goes on and on and on. Studies have proven that taking a break from your screen will lead to less anxiety and more happiness. Making a conscious effort to put down the screen, engage in the moment or activity and you will find your life will become more meaningful. See more.
Chasing Meaning Not Happiness. Happiness is defined as feeling good in the moment, being in a state of comfort and ease. Meaning is defined as belonging to and serving something beyond yourself which leads to feelings of worth and a sense of purpose. With happiness, you experience it for a moment in time, but to strive for meaning in your life will provide an ongoing sense of happiness. As discovered by the author, Emily Esfahani Smith, in her book, “The Power of Meaning”, there are 4 forms of meaning: belonging, purpose, transcendence, and storytelling. Belonging is an essential source of meaning by connecting you with family and friends. Purpose is also critical as it provides meaning that is bigger than yourself—contributing to something or a sense of being needed. Transcendence also is beyond one’s self. Understanding there is a greater power, connecting to a higher truth. The last form is looking at your life as a story not a series of events. Storytelling can help you understand who you are and what experiences give your life meaning. See more.
All of these concepts seem so obvious yet why are people not doing them. It could be that we are addicted to technology and fear without it we would not be connected. Next time when you are feeling unsettled, anxious, or sad, try applying one of these simple ideas into your daily life.