iPads, Kindles and the pursuit of happiness

When was the last time you turned off your phone or computer for the day? A month? A year? Never?

Chances are that as youre reading this article, your cellphone is within reach. Your computer may be resting on your desk, awaiting your next pithy status update.

We are constantly surrounded by our phones, computers, iPads, Kindles and other devices that keep us connected. But are we happy?

In some ways, yes. A study conducted by the BBC surveyed 35,000 people in 39 different countries to measure how technology affects life satisfaction and sense of freedom and control. The study revealed that technology has a direct positive impact on life satisfaction.

Even though technology is associated with wealth, the study found that people with lower income levels derived the greatest increase in happiness from technology. Of this subset of disempowered groups, as the study referred to them, women in developing countries were the most positively affected by technology in terms of happiness.

Middle to upper income levels also exhibited an increase in life satisfaction, but not as dramatically as lower income levels. As a whole, the study concluded that technology does have a positive impact on society and that its benefits extend beyond the purely economic.

I agree that technology does contribute to overall happiness. Receiving a funny text or sharing a photo on Facebook is enjoyable. But heres my question when does the scale tip and technology become an obstacle for the pleasurable parts of life?

Today when you walk into a cafe, it is common to see people hunched over laptops and texting on cellphones, even when they are with another person.

Rather than having an exchange with another human being, they are absorbed in their digital world.

When people travel, they spend the trip creating Instagram photos instead of living in the moment. In place of real memories, they return with vague recollections of where they took a million photos.

These types of habits make me concerned that our engagement with technology is too extreme. When was the last time you spent the afternoon just relaxing without the distractions of the Internet?

There are exciting and entertaining opportunities with technology, but there comes a point when a break is needed. Going outside, reading an actual book, sipping a mug of tea lifes simple pleasures can so easily be overlooked with the flashy nature of phones and computers.

We need a balance in our lives between down time and tech time. That means making a conscious effort to turn off the distractions and just relax.

Its amazing how simply turning off a cellphone allows for more meaningful interactions. Whether it is spending time with a friend or soaking in your environment, without tech you can experience life.

Next time you have a moment to unwind, try turning off the digital distractions.