Much has been written about how addicted we are to our technology, especially our cell phones. My guess is that you are reading this on your phone right now - if not, your phone is probably within reach this very moment.
Does technology make us happier? That is definitely a topic too big for this little blog post to tackle. But I can share some ways that technology can make us happier. Here are some apps that I have used and recommend:
Track Your Happiness: This app is only available from the Apple App Store (sorry!) but is very cool and you should check it out if you have an iPhone. This app is actually a research project, but by participating you get to find out what makes you personally happy. It buzzes you at random times throughout the day to ask what you are doing and how much you are enjoying whatever you are doing. Also, interestingly, it asks how engaged you are in what you are doing - which research shows to be more of an indicator of how happy you are than how enjoyable the activity actually is. It also prompts you to track your sleep and to list things you are grateful for, which is good for happiness overall.
Insight Timer: This is another app, but this time it is available on both Apple and Android platforms (phew - and sorry Microsofties!). When I started training in Mindful Self-Compassion, many of the teachers raved about this app. I already had a meditation app I was using, so I just sort of shrugged my shoulders and figured there couldn't be anything that exciting about this one. And then I finally tried it out and immediately began telling my clients and students about it. It is great! Besides having a timer option, it is also full of prerecorded guided meditations from teachers like Jack Kornfield, Kristin Neff, and Tara Brach. It also tracks your meditation time so you can see how much time you're really getting on the cushion. It also has a community element, where it shows you how many other people are meditating at that very moment in the world, and allows you to send notes to each other. I have found myself meditating more since using it - and that's what really matters, right?
Way of Life: This app is only on iPhones. Yikes! I guess I'm showing my Apple bias, eh? Maybe if you know of an Android equivalent you can leave it in the comments below :) Anyway this app calls itself "The Ultimate Habit Builder & Breaker". It utilizes a simple concept - tracking what we do each day - to help us form new habits and gather data about how much we actually do certain things. For example, you may want to start exercising more frequently. You simply enter "Exercise" in as one of the things you'd like to check in on each day. You can set reminders to help you remember, but most likely just knowing you have to check in about it will help motivate you to do it. Maybe after using the Track Your Happiness app you realized that you feel happier when you make your bed every day. You can then use the Way of Life app to turn that knowledge into a habit!
There are most likely many many many more ways that our phones can make us happy (Trivia Crack, anyone?) but here are my top 3 recent finds. I would love to hear if you have other apps or websites that you use to cultivate happiness in your life!
I'm a mindfulness based psychotherapist in Seattle.