Happiness is sunshine, beaches, mountains, good food… Or is it? What makes us happy isn’t always what you might think.
Demonised as your phone, tablet, or computer might be – with the internet dumbing us down and causing an epidemic of depression in young people – screen time isn’t going to be the death of humanity. On the contrary; used right, technology can make you happy in many different ways.
Not so sure? We’re going to look at the ways technology can:
- Boost your connectedness
- Give you access to new forms of happiness
- Offer outlets for creativity
How does connecting using technology makes us happy?
No one is an island; we live our lives connected to the people around us. Even if you prefer to keep to yourself, you’ll have some connections to neighbours and colleagues. You might be gregarious, with friends and family coming out your ears.
However you choose to live, having relationships in your life makes you happier. A Harvard study that’s been running since 1938 has found that the more you connect with people around you, the happier you’ll be.
We’ve now got various apps that’ll help you stay in touch with your friends and family who live far away. Where would you be without apps like:
And all the other chat apps?
As Facebook groups become more popular, we’re even able to make far-flung connections with like-minded souls. You might be into Star Trek or steam engines, bird watching or The Beatles. Whatever your passion, there’ll be people you can discuss the finer details with on the other side of the world through social media.
Boosting your mental health with technology
It’s not just about keeping up with your pals who retired over to Spain or niece on a gap year in Australia. Access to better communication means you can speak with mental health professionals much easier.
Some apps give you direct access to trained counsellors and therapists. Using the power of your smartphone, you can connect with professionals who can help with issues such as:
- Intrusive thoughts
- Panic attacks
Which can help you bypass long NHS waiting lists.
One of the top-rated therapy apps is BetterHelp, which has a range of therapists trained in different areas. Having easy access to therapy and counselling is definitely a plus point of modern technology.
Chris Barraclough told us: "Technology absolutely saved me during the seemingly endless lockdowns. My Oculus Quest VR headset was a major help, allowing me to stay fit despite spending 23 out of 24 daily hours sat or slumped or generally prone. Boxing apps like Fit XR meant I could have lots of lockdown takeaways and not feel guilty. Plus VR can allow you to escape abroad with virtual documentaries and travel apps, again without the cost and hassle of actually travelling.
"But it was being able to stay in touch with distant friends and family that really kept a lot of us going through the pandemic. That, and being able to escape to another room with the PlayStation when the kids were driving us nuts!"
What innovations in happiness can technology offer?
Health, happiness, and wellness are both very important and very popular online industries. The internet and your phone can open up new ways to become happy, relaxed and centred.
Have you ever fancied meditating? You don’t need to leave the comfort of your living room to learn how to quieten your thoughts and control your breathing. Meditation can make you more resilient, improve your memory, and help with emotional regulation, among other benefits. Serenity offers guided meditation to help you with a range of worries or issues.
Another recent trend in the wellness arena is practising affirmations. If the idea is new to you, it’s about repeating positive phrases to yourself. By saying good things out loud, they have more impact. There is solid science behind the idea of saying how great you are out loud, and there are apps like I am which help you along with the process.
Journaling, or keeping a diary, might seem like something you did as a teenager. No matter your age, it’s actually a pretty simple way to boost your happiness according to research. By noting down your thoughts, troubles, and worries, you can really improve your mood. Using an app such as Journey lets you record your thoughts wherever you are.
How can creativity be helped by technology?
The internet gives to access to a whole universe of knowledge and creativity. You can use apps to edit the music and videos you make, share your creations with the world, and appreciate what professionals have created.
Indulging in hobbies like playing guitar, recording videos, and taking photos will make you happier – it’s time spent on you and what you love. Technology has made these pursuits a whole lot easier, with simple apps to help tune your guitar, edit videos together, and tidy up your photos, among many others.
We all love to get positive feedback on what we make. When you’re confident to show the world what you create, there are lots of apps that help get your art out there:
- Writers can add their fiction stories to Wattpad
- Musicians can upload their music to Bandcamp
- Photographers can add their shots to Unsplash for people to use
- Videographers can share their creations on YouTube
Whatever your art form, there will be a way to share it online and make you and thousands of others happy.
Art makes us happy; our brains react to art the same way they respond to sex, according to Semir Zeki at UCL. Accessing paintings, movies, and music you like will make you happier, and you no longer need to leave the house to do it.
Lots of museums have digitised their collections, with the Rijksmuseum’s app being celebrated as one of the best out there.
Netflix might not be your first thought as a place for art, but their movies and TV shows are full of creativity and talent. Check out these documentaries if you want something a little highbrow:
- Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski
- Paris is Burning
For something more sedate, there are millions of books available online through Google Play Books, Amazon, and other eReader platforms. You can pick up classics by the likes of Shakespeare and Jane Austen for less than a quid.
Technology CAN make you happier!
Technology can get a bad rap in the media. There are lots of ways you can use the power of the device in your pocket to make you happier.
From staying in touch with loved ones, finding your online tribe, learning new ways for your brain to cope with the world, to making and sharing art – the internet can be a force for tremendous good in your life, too.