Happiness comes with a picket sign

From Medill Reports:

They are on every TV channel and lots of street corners. They are outside your office and at the mall. They are neighbors, friends, mothers, sons and significant others. They are activists.

And, despite the sentiments of discontent visible on their signs, stickers and slogans, activists may just be happier than their passive colleagues, according to a new review published in this month’s issue of the Journal of Political Psychology.

The review encompasses a set of three studies showing that people who engage in activism tend to be happier and possess a greater sense of vitality.

Determining the effect of activism on a person’s well-being was the objective of the research conducted by Tim Kasser, professor and psychology chair at Knox College in Galesburg and visiting German graduate student Malte Klar, of the University of Gottingen.

Their findings suggest that activism and civil engagement is a natural force in any developed society and provides people with a sense of involvement in regard to problem solving.

“I think that, by nature, people are social animals,” Kasser said. “Once society becomes complex, it leads us to becoming political.”

Kasser noted that activism fulfills basic psychological needs for feelings of competence, relatedness and autonomy.

By writing letters or protesting on the street, people assert their autonomy and power as an individual, he said. Activists very rarely act alone and usually operate within a network, thus providing a sense of relatedness. Kasser contended that, by setting reasonable goals such as acquiring a certain number of signatures for a petition, activists feel competent about their pursuit.