Are modern communication technologies diminishing our lives?

No matter what technology is invented to make our lives that little bit easier, the cost is that we are then forced to keep pace with it. Emails are quick – but then the result is that we spend time answering them all. Texting and messaging is so convenient – but then we have to check our messages constantly, and respond, in case there is something important.

Once you could shut the office door and leave all thoughts of work behind and you would have to relax. Now with smartphones, social media, high-speed broadband and other communications possibilities, we can no longer feel undisturbed in our own homes. This constant alertness leads to raised levels of cortisol in the brain. Cortisol is a chemical that is commonly known as the ‘stress hormone’.

Our social interactions and even our most basic relationships can be affected by new technology. Now people talk through communications devices, often replacing the heart-felt chat with a quick one-liner short-message text. Time for a ‘catch up’ – relaxation and de-stressing time – can be diminished by its new replacement: ‘hope u r ok. I’m fine. c u soon’

Humans are social animals. By interacting with others we gain a sense of belonging and being part of a group, be it family, friends or colleagues at work. Through these interactions, we learn to understand body language, develop empathy, feel loved and can give love. We are better at developing healthy, reciprocal relationships. All this leads to a greater sense of happiness and well being.

There are concerns at the moment that children who spend a great deal of time on the Internet, playing computer games or watching television, rather than interacting with others, might not be as socially skilled as those with more tempered habits. When these skills are not learned properly or forgotten, it is hard to communicate with others, which can lead to social anxiety, isolation – in order to avoid stressful social situations – and this could ultimately spiral to depression.

It seems as if good communication is fundamental to happiness in all walks of life, at home, in relationships, with friends, at work, even on holiday. Without good communication, life can be more of a struggle, since we are unable to properly understand other people. However, communication takes practice and time, away from the distractions of modern technologies. Spending quality time with friends and family is time spent reconnecting with the important people in our lives and feeling part of something, not separate from it.

Modern technologies are amazing, but so are the people around us.

In Search of Happiness

What is it that makes us happy?

 Those of us lucky enough to live in the Western world and enjoy the benefit of a secure roof over our heads, enough food to eat, some meaning in our work or cultural life and someone to love,who loves us back, – surely that’s enough; that’s what it takes to survive and be happy.

It seems, though, that we are driven to want more; the more we have, the more we want. So the promotion we get at work is soon forgotten and we become frustrated that we’re not moving up the ladder faster.  We don’t enjoy what we’ve achieved; what we’ve achieved doesn’t make us happy because we already want more.  This causes us stress and anxiety.

The handbag, car, or phone that  we buy is thrilling for the first 24 hours but we soon see something else, maybe  something that someone else has, that we want for ourselves. So what we think will make us happy, often falls short. It doesn’t necessarily follow that more – materially more – makes us happy. Wanting materially more, may actually make us unhappy.

Maybe it’s what touches our soul and our hearts that can offer real happiness. The giving and receiving of love is a key to happiness; in a simple form this could be a great conversation over a good cup of coffee with an old friend or making a good connection with a parent or grandparent.  Investing time in relationships is more likely to bring us a sense of fulfillment and well being than more material goods.

What we do, our work, is key to giving  meaning to our lives. Those without work are prone to depression. The Royal College of Psychiatrists states that after relationship difficulties, unemployment is most likely factor to push people to depression. Without the structure of the working day and the company of colleagues  and  the meaning this brings to our lives, we are not fulfilled and lose our sense of self-esteem.

Freud, the father of psychotherapy stated that it is a balance of love and work that can make us happy. To be loved and to be useful  may then be the keys to a happier life – not the handbag or the next holiday.