THE BLOG
11/13/2014 04:46 pm ET Updated Jan 13, 2015

7 Ways Technology Can Improve Your Happiness!

John Lamb via Getty Images

Have you ever found yourself on a vacation, a date or a great party with beloved friends and family when suddenly, out of the blue, and for no good reason, you develop an irresistible urge to check your Twitter, Facebook, texts or emails? You're not alone. Here's why: The urge to check social media is stronger than the urge for sex, according to research by Chicago University's Wilhelm Hoffman.

How does this happen? The answer is simple. We thrive on connection with others. Research shows that connection is what brings us the greatest fulfillment and joy, it is the secret to lasting well-being and even health and longevity.

So the question is: Does technology really help us connect? Is it worth the irresistible urge? In some cases no: one study showed that it actually makes use more lonely. In other cases, the research says yes. So what determines whether technology makes our day or gets us down?

It depends on your tech-usage style. Here are the do's and don'ts of tech-happy people:

1. Send Affectionate Notes Often.


A recent research study on couples and texting showed that texting to express affection is associated with higher connection between partners.

2. Contribute Often.


A Facebook study showed that, when we are actively sharing and posting, then Facebook makes us happier, presumably because we are reaching out to others and, in turn, receiving feedback from them, creating a two-way street of social connection.

3. Inspire and Uplift Others.


Why are Facebook pages like PurposeFairy, UpWorthy and FinerMinds so popular? Because they aim to uplift, inspire and brighten people's days. We can choose someone who brings more sunshine into people's lives. Research shows that altruism and helping others makes us happier, healthier and can even lengthen our lives.

4. Reach Out (You May Just Save a Life).


Dan Caddy, a veteran responsible for a military humor Facebook page called "Awesome Sh*t My DrillSargeant Says" one day received a message from a military servicemember about his buddy who was suicidal and locked in a place by himself with a gun. His cell phone was off so no one could locate him. Caddy posted up a notice that said that all jokes were off and that help was needed. Hundreds of comments flew in through the night, people starting getting in their cars and driving in the direction of the suicidal soldier. By 4am, after 100s of people had joined the effort, the soldier's commander had been located and his life saved. Dan Caddy has since started a nonprofit called Battle in Distress To see him speak, see our joint talk at Facebook Headquarters here.  You may think you're just sitting at home browsing pictures of friends' dinners, weddings and kids, but you may also be the first to notice that something is wrong, that you can help them in some way and that you can even save a life. A study shows that one out of every four people has no one to talk to. You never know who could use a kind gesture.

5. Connect in Meaningful Ways


Together with Arturo Bejar and the Facebook Compassion Team we are working on creating apps and improving opportunities for connection, empathy and kindness through Facebook interactions. Countless acts of violence and bullying can happen on social media, for all to see, and with real consequences that have even sadly led to teens taking their lives. However, we can reach out and do something to help them. Research on compassion shows that helping others and altruism is the best kept secret to happiness and well-being. Facebook presents countless opportunities to check in with loved ones and friends and be there for them if something seems off. Similarly, social media is a place where you can express need for support.

6. Close Your Computer, Set Down Your Phone and Look Someone in the Eyes.


Research by Paula Niedenthal shows that eye contact is the most essential and intimate form of connection. Social media is primarily verbal while the root of intimacy is not verbal but is transmitted through the most minute facial expressions (the tightening of our lips, the crows feet of smiling eyes, upturned eyebrows in sympathy or sorry) and posture. Mirror neurons in our brain are dedicated to reflect the actions of others so that we can internally feel what is happening with others - this ability is the basis for compassion and is the reason we feel sorry when someone cries or back away when we sense someone's anger. How much of this can be transmitted through a text or even a staged selfie? It can't. Look up and meet someone's eyes instead of a screen.

7. Log Onto A Well-Being App:

Destressify -- teaches exercises to calm the mind, achieve emotional balance, relax, get energized and find joy

Centered -- helps manage stress with a holistic wellness program of clinically validated mindful meditation sessions

Happier -- on-the-go gratitude journal to record happy moments both big and small -a scientifically proven way to feel more positive and optimistic

Lift -- helps you put your goals into action

Happify --  empowers you to live a happier, more fulfilling life through a set of personalized and research-based activities

Day One -- helps you record life as you live it. From once-in-a-lifetime events to everyday moments

Wisdom by Sri Sri -- delivers daily wisdom quotes to uplift you and keep you inspired

Lumosity - -offers a training program to challenge your brain

Calm -- helps you cultivate greater calm in your life

2 Awesome Upcoming Apps:


Fulfillment Daily -- Inspiring and practical science-backed tips for a happier life delivered to your phone!

spire.io -- tracks your physiological activity and teaches you to breathe your stress away

Already know all this stuff? Interested to learn more? Want to get in the game or already in it? Then check out the Happiness Apps Challenge - a contest for the most happiness-inducing apps!