We are more connected than ever. Technology has undoubtedly improved our lives in some ways. However, do you feel happier than ever before or more stressed?
Technology and our happiness
Gone are the days when co-workers walked down the hall or picked up the phone. E-mail and instant messaging “save” people from having to physically (and I might say psychologically) interact with their colleagues.
The same is true in our personal lives. How often do we see people spending time “together” but simultaneously apart? For example, when you’re out to dinner do you keep your phone in your pocket or purse or is it in your hand? If you keep it on the table or nearby, you’re likely trading conversation for message checking?
Then there are the teens sitting together in a car or at a table texting to each other rather than speaking with the person sitting right beside them. And of course, there are the “friends” whose last names and backgrounds are unknown, where the relationship consists primarily of sharing pictures of other unknown people.
The consequences of this often all-consuming use of technology can be deep and include social isolation, new levels of stress, and even rewiring of the brain. Plus, there’s the physical pain that comes from all-day keyboarding, or “thumbing,” and staring at a screen. Studies show relying 24/7/365 on technology impacts your judgment, emotional responses negatively effects your cognition.
A 2013 study published in PLOS ONE showed the correlation between Internet overuse (recently termed “Internet addiction”) and traits such as depression and impulsivity. In this study, researchers evaluated the extent to which Internet use disrupted participants everyday lives. The researchers measured the participant’s moods and anxiety levels. Then, they accessed any websites they wished. After just 15 minutes, their levels were re-assessed. Even in this short time, the results showed a decrease in heart rate, dilation of blood vessels, and a shift in blood flow away from the major body organs.
Fast forward five years and our use of smart technology is more prevalent than ever. While technology is increasing our stress levels, we’re also pre-wired for stress dating back to the early days of hunters and gatherers. While stress reduction exercises help manage stress, and keep you healthy, we also need to take a close look at our use of technology.
Everything in moderation
Moderation in all things, including moderation.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s hard to do in today’s ever-changing and fast-paced world, but take everything in moderation.
Using that approach as a guiding principle as you move through your day and interact in the world provides a simple and elegant perspective on this voyage called life.
Those who figure this out and take this stance on a consistent basis find the key to more calm, more balance, and more harmony. Those happy feelings then have a ripple effect.
It may start with finding a better balance between work and your personal life. While balance indicates a 50/50 split, and that’s not always possible, the two can live harmoniously together if you work at it. These strategies can help you achieve work-life balance.
Distilling down to focusing on what is important, letting go of negative energy as well as physical and mental clutter, and just being still, grateful, and living in the moment, becomes not only a means to an end, but ends in and of themselves.
There are great tools to live in the moment like mindfulness. You can practice it every day, with a minimal investment of time. You can even do it at the office!
If you’d like a year’s worth of stress reduction techniques, purchase a copy of “Be Less Stressed.” The five-star rated book walks you through ways to manage your stress.
Take a technology timeout
Moderation includes technology. It’s hard to do, but it feels liberating when you take a technology timeout.
I’m certainly not recommending you give up all of your technology tools. I’d invite you to consider a few adjustments:
Set your phone to “do not disturb” while you work or play with your children. Put your electronic devices in a basket when you get home. That way, you’re focused on the present and not distracted by an alert on the phone.
You can also try:
- holding mobile device-free meetings
- walking down the hall instead of e-mailing
- getting up from your desk once an hour to move and stretch (you’ll reach your step goals too!)
- going on a “technology vacation” for a weekend, or at least a day
- talking to your kids in person instead of responding to their texts
- calling a friend instead of texting
What are some of your ideas for breaking what might be an unhealthy connection to technology? E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and many others have their place. However, are they a substitute for true conversation and human interaction?
Life is short. Whatever you decide, make the relationships you have count, and think about using technology to give you more time for the relationships that mean the most, instead of substituting for them.