Modern life is filled with an explosion in gadgets and tools that are designed to “improve” our lives by making things easier…and supposedly making things easier will make us all happier. We now have phones that are much more than mere devices useful for talking to others. They can send electronic messages, play music, take photos, and do all sorts of things, with the hundreds of thousands of “apps” that are now available. There are “apps” to track your exercise and sleep habits, find food, and keep track of the kind of food you’ve eaten…the list is seemingly endless.

Like a dew that has settled on every part of the landscape, modern conveniences have infiltrated almost every aspect of our lives. In our kitchens we have devices to mix, mash, slice, dice and wash. In the 1950’s and 60’s many families had a tradition of the Sunday afternoon drive, a time in the family car where they could enjoy the vistas of a leisurely jaunt through the countryside. But today the family trip inevitably includes kids occupied with laptop tablets, DVD players, or portable headsets as the parents follow their navigation devices.

Part of this constant flood of new devices and products is driven by an underlying belief that efficiency and convenience will produce more free time for us, which in turn will make us happier. Sadly, though, despite this supposed increase in free time, the studies indicate that people are actually less happy than they were a decade ago. The reason is that merely having “free time” to spend on the pleasures of life does not produce happiness.

I did a simple Google search for “What makes people happy?” The results revealed that the top things cited all involved connection and investment in other people. We experience genuine happiness by living with a purpose, and this is especially true when the purpose is related to helping and serving other people. People that are self focused, self-absorbed, and self-centered will never be happy no matter how much money, power, leisure, or free time they have. Instead what will cause your happiness meter to spike is when you use your time, no matter if it is “free time” or “work time”, in a way that genuinely helps others.

The reality is that God has designed us for relationship with others, and all our gifts and callings are never for ourselves, but for the welfare and benefit of others. Our hearts shine and give us the rich glow of happiness when we know we are connected to others in mutually beneficial ways. What good is a beautiful voice if there is no one to sing to? What good are oration skills if there’s no one to speak with? What is the purpose of any of your personal abilities if you don’t use them to help others? If you need to increase happiness in your life, then connect and serve others with your special gifts and talents…it’s the key to happiness.