Can Technology Make You Happy?

Released: 28-Nov-2012 3:45 PM EST
Source Newsroom: IEEE Spectrum Magazine
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Newswise — The unmanageable in-box, the cellphone and laptop that keep you electronically tethered to the office, the endless 30-second distractions from incoming e-mail and text messages. Sound familiar? The same advances in computers and telecommunications that have brought about tremendous gains in productivity have also made the work lives of professionals a misery.

But what if, instead of creating stress, technology made people enjoy life more?

Engineering happiness is not as radical as it sounds, write sensor expert Kazuo Yano, psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, and grad student Joseph Chancellor in the December 2012 issue of IEEE Spectrum. Over the last decade, engineers, computer scientists, psychologists, and other researchers have shown they can do just that. Specifically, by monitoring and analyzing a person's sleep patterns, exercise and dietary habits, and vital statistics like body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate, they can pinpoint trouble spots in the person's daily routine and then suggest modifications that immeasurably improve that individual's outlook and well-being. A range of commercial products now let you try those things at home, with the ultimate goal of making you healthier and happier.

The same kind of technology that's helping people improve their personal lives can yield positive results in the workplace: better communication, better teamwork, and greater job satisfaction on all levels of the organization. Perhaps most intriguing, it can help workers achieve that satisfying feeling of being fully immersed in, energized by, and happy about whatever they are doing. Seem too good to be true? In fact, it's perfectly possible, and it isn't magic. But to achieve the best results takes the proper mix of engineering and psychology.


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