Harnessing Technology to Retrain the Brain on Happiness
Women on the Channel, Gina Narcisi
May 18 2017

In a technology-dominated world, where applications and news feeds constantly beckon our attention, one executive says effectively using technology can be the difference between being happy and optimistic or depressed.

Humans have the ability to manage their addiction to technology, which can impact energy and stress levels, Amy Blankson, co-founder of GoodThink, told an audience of channel executives at The Channel Company’s Women of the Channel event in Napa, California on Wednesday.

There’s no debate that technology has changed the way people interact, and technology can be disruptive – depression levels have increased twofold and cyberbullying is up an alarming 88 percent globally, Blankson said. However, there are ways to effectively use technology to increase happiness, without decreasing productivity.

But first, you have to cut out the technology that is serving as a distraction, Blankson said.

The average smartphone user unlocks their phone 150 times a day. If each unlock meant one minute of phone use, smartphone users are on their phones for 2.5 hours a day, or 1/12 of their year, Blankson said.

Blankson encouraged the audience to tap into their guiding values and beliefs, and keep these in mind when using technology.

“Do you want the kind of family that doesn’t pick up the phone at dinner?” she asked. “Or, I want to use my phone as a tool, and not an escape.”

To stay on track, Blankson challenged the audience to turn off unnecessary notifications and focus on only the “most important streams” by moving apps used every day to the home screen, and moving every other app to back screens or within folders so they can’t be used out of idle boredom.

That’s because the human brain is a single processor, she said.

“Brains take in 11 million bits of information every moment, but it can only process 40 bits at a time,” she explained. “Try to be picky, and you can retrain the brain to tune out things that aren’t helping you as your brain scans that environment.”

But being happy isn’t only about finding ways to avoid your mobile device or social media accounts. The influx of new technology can be harnessed to make people healthier and happier, Blankson said.

With mobile apps that can alert users to potential health concerns, such as breath and heart rate monitors, to a slew of apps that can be set for meditation reminders or inspiration, users would be remiss not to use the technology they carry around each day to improve their lives.

“We can train our brains to reach a higher potential,” Blankson said.

And more optimism translates into greater career success. Happier people are more innovative, and with happiness comes higher engagement levels in the workplace, she added.

“There is a direct tie-in between positivity, happiness, and technology,” Blankson said. “Take this information and run with it in your personal and professional life. [Technology] doesn’t have to be a distraction, it can elevate.”