Happiness, or more accurately how to be happy appears more and more frequently as a hot topic on bookshelves and talk shows everywhere. As I browsed the shelves of a major bookstore, the sheer volume was inescapable. Apparently, a lot of people are searching how to be happy and yet social media presents something else entirely. That’s telling, don’t you think?

A woman stated recently her confusion of a friend’s need to present the illusion of a happy self, posting a selfie that in no way reflected where she was at in her life. Has technology brought us to the brink of self-imposed emotional catastrophe? And if it has, can we come back from it?

Is being available all the time eroding our happiness?

At a women’s business event yesterday, it was interesting to be a part of a conversation in which the generational split viewed our ties to technology differently.  Those of us in the older set had our cell phones off the table and in our purses. We had set aside the meeting time as a meeting time, without interactions from others outside the room. Our phones remained off table, until the lunch break, and we responded as needed.

One business woman – mid thirties I’d guess, said she had a very hard time not responding to every text or email that came across – on her phone or laptop. Even if the timing was terrible and outside of her posted business hours. She admitted that in the first hour of this gathering, she had already received 6 texts from a client.

Happiness and our technology connections

I was happy to hear another woman of a similar age give her some ideas about handling the deluge of “technology connection”. Setting up an auto-reply and pre-setting expectations around response times.

This is not to suggest that the older generation knows better, it is not. Some of us, having been in business longer, perhaps raising families and tending to multiple demands, have set boundaries in other ways. Finding or at least striving for some kind of balance. In doing so, we have come to appreciate the enjoyment and success of doing one thing at a time.

Science is telling us that we are not as good at multi-tasking as we think, and the constant interruptions take us away from a focused approach to the task at hand. The interruption requires a longer time for our brains to re-engage with the task and to make progress again.

What does this have to do with happiness?

It comes back to making decisions about when we are available, to whom and under what circumstances. It is about understanding that taking down time is important to re-charge and be ready for the next to do on your list. If you are never free from technology, if there is a part of your brain ever ready to receive and respond to something outside of your present circumstance, that is a constant tension. Consistent tension, even in small amounts, wears you down.

Happiness in the moment

Being fully in the moment is a gift to your whole self. It is about the ability to take in the beauty of a winter scene, enjoy the antics of squirrels racing after each other, or be fully attentive when a person you care about is talking to you.

Technology is here to stay, and it has brought us many benefits. How we use it and its many applications is the challenge of setting our expectations of it and of ourselves. Will we allow it to add to or decrease our happiness? Are we using it to project ourselves as we are, or who we think we need to be? It’s quite acceptable, although it might appear radical, to even consider taking technology breaks. To announce that you are going to be offline. Then, put the phone, tablet or laptop away and just…be.

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