Why politics will make you happy

Martha Roberts invites you to road-test research around feeling good


Why politics will make you happy

The project

Many people shy away from getting involved in politics, but studies suggest that political engagement can help us lead a happier life.

The aim

Incorporate politics into your life – it could make you happier by increasing your connectedness to other people.

The theory

Being politically involved was one of the factors noted in the World Happiness Database as being beneficial for increasing happiness. This is also something Chris Barker and Brian Martin found in a recent study* – that participation in families, workplaces and political systems increases happiness levels by helping us to build and maintain social relationships. People feel they are undergoing self-improvement and exercising their participatory skills (what the authors call ‘citizen flow’), thereby bolstering happiness levels.

You don’t have to run for office. It can manifest itself in various forms – doing jury service, attending council meetings, organising an online petition or supporting a campaigning organisation. There’s strong evidence that happy people participate more in democratic processes, so it would seem a virtuous circle exists in relation to happiness and politics – being politically involved makes you happier, and happier people get more politically involved than those who are unhappy.

Try It Out

  • Don’t be defeated before you start. Political involvement doesn’t have to be time-consuming or high-powered. It’s fine to ‘think small’. What you do on a small basis can make a difference to your immediate world and make you feel content through increased interaction.
  • Seek out kindred spirits. Whether it’s mental health, green issues or animal rights, there’s probably an organisation out there that feels as passionately as you do. The ‘Get involved’ section on a charity’s website, for example, will give you ideas.
  • Have the courage to be a lone wolf. It may be that your political passion is so niche that there isn’t a group to represent it. Perhaps this is the time to consider going it alone. 
  • Familiarise yourself with vehicles for change. Whether it’s through social media or putting up a poster in a local café, there are many ways you can spark political interest in other people.

MARTHA ROBERTS is an award-winning UK health writer and mental health blogger at mentalhealthwise.com

*Research published in the Journal of Public Deliberation, 2011

Photograph: Corbis