The Future of Happiness: How to Be Happy in the Digital Age

How to Be Happy in the Digital Age

 

We live in the digital age.

Some bemoan the constant interruptions and endless internet surfing. Others celebrate the new-found freedom and capabilities.

How has the digital age impacted our happiness?

Amy Blankson is one of the world’s leading experts on the connection between positive psychology and technology. She is the only person to be named a Point of Light by two presidents (President George Bush Sr. and President Bill Clinton) for creating a movement to activate positive culture change.  A sought-after speaker and consultant, Amy has now worked with organizations like Google, NASA, the US Army, and the Xprize Foundation to help foster a sense of well-being in the Digital Era.

Her new book, The Future of Happiness: 5 Modern Strategies for Balancing Productivity and Well-Being in the digital Era, is a blend of research, case studies, and practical tips to improve your happiness, productivity and health in the midst of the onslaught of apps, devices, and constant connection.

I recently spoke to her about staying positive in the midst of it all.

 

Research: Positivity equals 3x more creativity and 31% higher productivity.

 

Happiness in the Digital Age

I want to start with the question that an entrepreneur asked you at one of your presentations: “Social media and technology are destroying our happiness, right?”

In recent months, I have seen a growing number of posts about how bad technology is for us. Technology is blamed for social isolation, disconnection, and corruption.  But I’ve also heard and seen how technology can be used for good — a means to connect, to share knowledge, to empower, even to save lives.  So, which is it: Is technology good for us or bad for us?  Does technology make us less happy or more happy?  As Shakespeare once said, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Technology is a tool, a means to an end–and WE get to decide how that story ends.

 

Fact: 95% of Americans spend 2 or more hours a day using a digital device.

 

Since technology can both bring joy and destroy it, tell us a few ways you’ve used it to your advantage. And tell us about what apps you’re using for happiness, productivity, and to “tune in, not zone out.”

One of my favorite examples of “happytech” is the Spire stone.  The Spire stone is a small wearable that clips onto your bra strap or waistband to monitor your respiration and, in turn, lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and increase the flow of endorphins in your blood stream. The Spire uses your breathing patterns to figure out when you are tense, calm, or focused, and provides gentle notifications to guide you when you need it most.

When I first started testing out the Spire stone, I had a particularly poignant experience.  Last spring, my family jumped into our backyard pool to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather. In an unfortunate turn of circumstances, my younger daughter jumped into the pool a bit too close to her older sister, landing on her neck and breaking her neck.  I happened to be out of town when this happened, so I didn’t know how bad the situation was until I returned home and took my older daughter to the doctor.  I was wearing my Spire stone the whole time and had managed to stay fairly calm through the doctor visit; however, as I was walking out of the hospital with my daughter in a giant neck brace, my Spire stone began to vibrate to let me know I was feeling tense.  Pausing to think about what was going on, I realized that I was actually anxious about how other people would perceive me as the mother of a child with a broken neck. The nudge was just enough to help me reframe my thoughts to be more present for my daughter rather than worried about myself, and I was able to short-circuit an emotional response that might have taken me a week or more to realize before I had the Spire stone.

 

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.” –Robert Solow

 

Tell us about the Happiness Cliff.

Sometimes tech is fun just for the sake of the endorphin rush and the dopamine boost. But at what point do those focus-altering diversions cause us to lose sight over what we really care about? At what point do diversions turn into fixations that are distracting?

Sometimes we become so engrossed in our diversions that we don’t notice that they are no longer making us happy anymore. Like Wile E. Coyote in Looney Tunes, we get our legs going so fast that it actually takes us a moment to realize that we have run right off the Happiness Cliff. Let me assure you that this never turns out well for poor Wile E.

According to the Law of Diminishing Returns, many diversions can actually be beneficial for our productivity and happiness—up to a point. Beyond that point, the diversion simply becomes a waste of time and eventually a time suck that becomes harmful to our productivity. To avoid falling off the happiness cliff, start your day by setting your intention for how you want to use your time.   When you start to find yourself engrossed in a task, pause to ask if your technology use is helping you tune in (helping you to achieve your intention) or causing you to zone out.  If your answer is the latter, then try to set a time limit for yourself to engage in that activity so that you don’t get sucked in and lose focus.

 

Happiness Tip: pause to see if you are tuning in or zoning out.

 

Train Your Brain to Be Positive

What does the latest research tell us about our ability to train our brains to be more positive?

The latest research from the field of positive psychology reveals that training our brains to be more positive is not only possible, it’s actually essential to striving after your full potential. Why? Because when your brain is positive, it receives a boost of dopamine, which turns on the learning centers in the brain and makes you able to see more possibilities in your environment.  In fact, a positive brain has been linked to: 37% higher sales, 3x more creativity, 31% higher productivity, 40% increase in likelihood of receiving a promotion, 23% decrease in symptoms of fatigue, 10x increase in the level of engagement at work, a 39% increase in the likelihood of living to age 94, and a 50% decrease in the risk of heart disease.

 

Research: Positive people have a 40% increase in likelihood of a job promotion.

 

Create a Habitat for Happiness

5 Thieves of Happiness

Be Happier This Year

 

What if happiness was your natural state?

What if we are seeking something on the outside that is found on the inside?

How do you recognize and lock out the five thieves that want to steal your happiness?

That’s what John Izzo teaches. He believes that happiness is being stolen by mental patterns. Five thieves are working to destroy your happiness.

All of us can recognize these thieves and learn to lock them out of our lives.

John Izzo, PhD, is a speaker and author of six books. I read his latest, The Five Thieves of Happiness and enjoyed its thoughtful approach. I recently asked him about his latest work.

 

“Happiness is our natural state.” -John Izzo

 

The Science of Happiness

Why is the study of happiness and the pursuit of happiness such a rage today?

Well, I think some of the things that used to make us happy such as a sense of community and connection have been lost. So, a loss of place and being more urban is now a contributor. Also, a rising middle class focuses more on happiness. They say there is also something bigger when things in the larger society seem out of control—things like climate change, terrorism, the pace of change. We realize we cannot control these things so we often focus in where we can change—which, by the way, is a good instinct because it is where all societal change begins anyway. Finally, I think the fact that science has started to study happiness in a serious way helps because maybe people feel that you can actually hardwire happiness rather than thinking that some people are simply happy.

 

“For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” -Shakespeare

 

“Attention without attachment” immediately pulled me in. How do we best make this a daily practice?

It is a critical concept for happiness. Attention is about the actions we take, the intention we have moment to moment. Attachment is a focus on a goal or what is called in yoga a “sticky desire.” Here is a simple example: I play a great deal of tennis. Attention is about being in the present moment at every point in a match. Being aware of my body, how I want to hit the ball and seeing what is happening around me. There is great happiness in playing and even the artistry of the moment-to-moment intention to improve. Winning the match is attachment and is something I cannot control. The more I focus on my attachment to winning, the less happiness I will have and, ironically, the less likely I am to win. The way we cultivate this is to first recognize the difference when it shows up. When we feel that happiness is in the outcome we must stop that thought and instead have this mantra: “I choose to be in the present moment accepting whatever is. The outcome is not in my control.” This takes training of the mind which we have trained to focus on attachment to what we cannot control: the future. When our intentions don’t lead to our desired outcome, we must then simply re-choose how to be in the present moment again. So, you lost the match, the relationship, the promotion, or even playing golf this afternoon when the rainstorm ruined it. Once you see that unhappiness is resistance to whatever is at any moment. Happiness is being present in each moment and open to what might arrive. Never confuse this with some resigned passivity. I am still going to practice hard for the next match, but it is attention without attachment.

 

“Routine is deadening to the human soul.” -John Izzo

 

5 Thieves of Happiness

1: Control

2: Conceit

3: Coveting

4: Consumption

5: Comfort

 

Practice Accepting What Is

Surrender is the opposite force from control. But it’s so far from easy for many of us. How do we build up a reservoir of surrender energy to be used just when we need it?

5 Thieves of HappinessSurrendering is very hard for most people. It begins with the realization that all emotional and spiritual suffering is resistance to whatever is happening at any given moment. This may seem like hyperbole, but it isn’t. All the great teachers taught surrender in one form or another. I think you start by practicing with the little things. You had a busy day and can’t wait to get home; suddenly there is an accident, and you’re stuck in traffic for an hour. Practice accepting what is with no resistance, surrendering to the outcome and asking, “How can I find joy or meaning right now?” If you practice surrendering to the small detours in life, you will be ready for the big ones like the death of someone you love or your eventual loss of health. We are a society of doers, so we don’t like surrender, but my idea of surrender is not simply giving up. It is embracing whatever is while trying to influence it as best I can. But surrender comes before action. Acting from what I call “surrender energy” is more powerful because you aren’t taking on the misery of attachment. You begin with the little stuff because if you can’t surrender to that, you have no chance when the big stuff shows up.

 

“The future cannot be controlled, only experienced.” -John Izzo

 

Serve Something Outside Yourself

10 Science-Backed Ways to Be Happier Right Now

Don’t Worry, Be Happy!

Happiness. Some people pursue it. Those who have it radiate with an inner joy.

There are various techniques to develop a more positive attitude, ways to train yourself to be content. The people I would describe as the happiest aren’t those with the most things, or even the most friends, but those who have a deep faith.

 

“Worry can rob you of happiness but kind words will cheer you up.” –Prov. 12:25

 

This infographic contains 10 science-backed ways to be happier. Do these techniques work for you? What would you say creates true happiness?

 


“Love is trembling happiness.” –Kahil Gibran

 

 

One way to be happier: get ideas, insight, and inspiration delivered to your inbox. By signing up for FREE to Leadership Insights, you will take a major step to self-improvement.

Already on my list? Enter your email above and you'll get instructions on how to access the webinar.

 

how-to-be-happy


“Learn to let go. That is the key to happiness.” –Buddha


“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” –Gandhi


“To fall in love with yourself is the first secret to happiness.” –Robert Morely


“Your words became the happiness in my heart.” –Jeremiah 15:16

What Do You See in the Clouds?

Leadership Perceptions

 

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” –Edgar Degas

 

An artist I know loves to show me a blank canvas and describe, in detail, the painting. To her, it’s so clear. Where I see only a blank canvas, she sees an entire landscape full of vibrant colors.

An entrepreneur I know once took his family on a tour of a remote piece of property. He shared his vision for where buildings would go and all the customers who would be mingling in various parts of the land. The family couldn’t imagine it, but he saw it all vividly. And, today, it looks exactly like that. It’s a thriving business.

An author friend of mine creates characters in her mind. Month after month, she dreams about them, talks with them, listens to them. They become so real to her that, when she finally starts writing, it’s as if she is merely recording what happens instead of inventing it.

 

“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.” –Vincent van Gogh

 

That’s the power of imagination. It’s the power of creativity.

  • Seeing something magical where others see mundane.
  • Seeing something beautiful where others see garbage.
  • Seeing potential in someone they don’t see in themselves.
  • Leaders inspire us by seeing a positive vision for organizations.
  • Successful people see opportunities when others see problems.

If there’s one skill you want to cultivate, it’s seeing the positive, the beautiful, the magical in others, in yourself, in challenging times, in dark places.

Because that change of perspective can make the difference in your outlook.

 

“To change ourselves effectively, we first have to change our perceptions.” –Stephen R. Covey

 

On a recent vacation, my wife was relaxing on a deck with a view of a mountain. As she often does, she was bringing people into her mind and praying for them one by one. Mesmerized by the beautiful scene in front of her, she decided to take a quick picture with her phone.

When we returned home, she was looking at her pictures and shared this one with a few close friends. Immediately, the responses started coming back. There’s something in the clouds!

 

“The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close up.” –Chuck Palahniuk

7 Decisions You Can Make Today to Be More Successful

This is a guest post by Janet Miller. Janet is a mom of four, former Fortune 500 executive and executive coach. She is the cofounder of Jen Reviews and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, and Tiny Buddha.

How to Be Happier and More Successful

Og Mandino once said, “In truth, the only difference between those who have failed and those who have succeeded lies in the difference of their habits. Good habits are the key to all success. Bad habits are the unlocked door to failure. Thus, the first law I will obey, which precedeth all the others is – I will form good habits and become their slave.”

 

“Good habits are the key to all success. Bad habits are the unlocked door to failure.” -Og Mandino

 

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit…or to break one. While the end result may not happen in the blink of an eye, these seven things we will go over today will definitely get you on your way. In the meantime, the happiness you will attain in realizing you are on your way to solidifying good practices will lead to your overall success. So, yes, you will realize a difference on the very first day, today, if you wish.

 

To most, this would seem like one of the least likely cases for long-term happiness and success, as it might leave you open to being let down. Quite the contrary. In assuming someone’s good intentions, you are allowing yourself to see things from their perspective, which in turn brings out the ability in you to be a good listener. You begin to see that their point has some valid root in something that they themselves find important, and you want to know what that is. It takes away the defensive attitude that we sometimes get when people come up with ideas that are not our own and also curbs our innate subconscious desire for self-righteousness.

Leadership Tip: Always start by believing in someone’s good intent.

 

2. Write down your goals every day.

Write down your goals every day. Studies show that writing down daily goals significantly improves the accomplishment of those goals. A good idea can also be a fleeting one, and it pays to jot every one of them down and then to arrange them in such a way that you can work from them towards a future arrival point, whether long-term or short-term. It can create and maintain vision, in which you can dream big, decide where you want to eventually be, and know the steps it will take to get there. It solidifies measurability, and creates something you can look back on as you begin to reach the finish line you have created.

“People with written goals accomplish far more in a shorter period of time than people without them could ever imagine.” – Brian Tracy

 

3. Realize that setbacks can ultimately lead to success.

While intelligence is most often a fixed-in-place factor in our lives, resilience is not. It allows us to cope with and eventually overcome adversity, which is something that can be acted on and improved. As we strengthen our resilience, we are able to recover faster from setbacks, and that makes us a little more open to taking chances that might grant us the possibility of even more success. When failure happens, there are a couple ways to deal with it, and they make a world of difference. One way is to place blame on someone or something else or to feel so badly about it that you learn nothing. This gives no room for moving forward. On the other hand, acknowledgement makes way for setting emotion aside and analyzing the failure in such a way as to move on from it and, eventually, overcome it.

“Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.” –Truman Capote

 

All kinds of negativity can come from comparing yourself to others. Whether you are looking at success, body image, accomplishments, financial gain or social status, all of this can ultimately result in jealousy and feelings of inferiority. It can even lead to anxiety and depression if allowed to be a constant in life. In no way does it help you achieve a single goal that you have placed for yourself and can actually cause you to stop making progress on your own goals. Instead, focus your energy – both physical and mental – on being the absolute best that you yourself can be.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” -Theodore Roosevelt

 

5. Avoid toxic people.

There are studies that have proven that stress can leave a negative impact on the brain that lasts and lasts. Even short-term exposure can leave lasting impressions on the part of the brain responsible for reasoning and memory. Long-term exposure can destroy neurons completely, which is irreversible. To think that stress is not an enemy of happiness and success is to completely ignore the reality of this situation. Being able to manage one’s emotion and reaction to outside stressors has a direct relevance in our lives, and to avoid as much of that as possible from those stressors is of the utmost importance.

Study: Stress has a negative impact on the brain.