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Political Activism Is Good for Your Head


A new study by two psychologists, Malte Klar and Tim Kasser, has shown that political activism can do more than save the whales. It can save your psyche itself from ennui:Klar and Kasser recruited hundreds of college students and found that those who identified themselves as activists and who said they were planning some activism were happier and more fulfilled than non-activists.They then tried to nail down the direction of causation to make sure it was the activism causing the happiness, rather than vice-versa:One hundred and twelve student participants were encouraged to write to the college cafeteria director calling on him to source food more locally and ethically. These students subsequently reported feeling more energised and alive than a control group of participants who wrote to the director calling for tastier food and more choice.So the moral of the story is that engaging with the political process in an effort to make the world better will also make you better. That's convenient. But the study did find one exception: Extreme activism-the kind that's likely to get you arrested-did not have psychological benefits. So maybe stay away from the gun-toting, window-smashing style of protest.
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