By Camilla Rubis
Today, there are a million reasons to unleash your inner activist: combating injustice, educating people on issues you care about, fighting for those without a voice, and the general state of our planet (i.e. THE WORLD DESPERATELY NEEDS HELP) are some that come to mind. But did you know that the pursuit of activism can also make you happier?
Here are four reasons following your inner activist will not only make the world better but actually make you feel better.
1. Decrease your cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is an idea in psychology that says that people feel better when their actions align with their values. We all have experienced that icky feeling when we are doing something that goes against our core beliefs, such as consuming animal products when we know how farm animals are treated and the effects on the environment, purchasing a pair of sneakers that are not ethically made, or keeping your money at a bank that furthers economic inequity or diverts funds toward the destruction of the environment.
Yet often, we push that inner tension to the back of our thoughts. Following your instinct to do what’s right is an effective way to lift the veil of cognitive dissonance. When your actions serve your beliefs there is a remarkable amount of empowerment, peace, and fulfillment that come with that.
2. Make meaningful friendships.
One of the great benefits of following your inner activist is that it inevitably leads you to people who feel similarly about the issues you hold dear. Imagine meeting someone and skipping past the awkward what do we have in common icebreaker-ey talk. That is what it is like when you connect to fellow activists. A bond naturally forms because you already know you share a common cause.
Making friends based on a mutual desire to help the world can often result in deeper connections too. We all made friends in school because we had the same interests. We all made friends at work because of a mutual dislike of the boss. But being understood and seen by our fellow activists is profoundly fulfilling and a strong foundation for deeper friendships. These friends also bring out the best in us, join us in our activism, and inspire us to get even more active on a cause we care about.
My favorite aspect of having activist friends is that there is no competition whatsoever. We all want the same thing, so I cheer on my friends who have made headway and continue to make a difference.
3. You actually have a reason to go on social media.
Instead of aimlessly, habitually, scrolling through pictures of everyone’s “happiest” version of their lives (which may have taken numerous shots and carefully worded text to craft), YOU are there with a purpose.
Whether spreading the word about an issue you are dedicated to, educating yourself or other people on a cause, or connecting with others who are passionate about the same things — you are not wasting your time. You are also not feeling inadequate, comparing your life to the people you follow (we all do this) or getting annoyed at your aunt’s narrow-minded tweet. You are focusing on something bigger than you, and following through on your desire to help.
Numerous studies show the way social media and unhappiness are directly correlated. And while it would be great to disengage from it altogether, for many of us, this is not possible. Reframing our use and the ways in which we interact on social media platforms allow us to get the most fulfillment from it.
According to a famous psychological study by Sonja Lyubomirsky, about half of our happiness is biologically predetermined. This is called our “happiness set point.” Another 10% correlates to our living conditions. The last 40% of our happiness has to do with our actions — the things we control.
Taking meaningful, purposeful action makes us happy. Working toward other people’s happiness and improving the lives of others increases confidence and decreases depression and anxiety.
We often view activists as disgruntled, angry, combative radicals who alienate people who don’t believe what they do. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In a study where college students were interviewed based on their level of involvement in issues and their personal level of happiness, those with high levels of involvement tested as the happiest.
Ready to spend the summer with your inner activist?
Are you looking for ways to make a bigger difference in the world? Are you looking to add greater fulfillment and happiness to your life? If so, join us at YEA Camp this summer!
For the past 10 years, we have been training people to make a bigger difference in the world and to have a great time doing it.
This summer, we have two sessions for teens and one session of YEA Camp for Adults, with folks coming from all over the country to attend. Not only will it be super fun and help you make a bigger difference on the causes you care about, it might even boost your happiness set point.
About the Author: Camilla Rubis is a TV Writer in Los Angeles and YEA Camp volunteer. She is passionate about the spread of financial literacy to empower and support future generations.