I went to a pre-election day “end of the world party” (Northern Virginia mama-style) last night with many of my friends from my amazing book club (The Nightlighers). The point was to have a little fun before the dreaded vote. Then the dreaded vote came. As I stood in line, I thought about how this vote could plunge us into the kind of turmoil I want to only read about in books. But, you know what, after I cast my ballot, I smiled and said “thanks so much for volunteering” to the people there and skipped out of the polling station. I think I literally skipped with a big stupid grin on my face. Then, I stopped mid-skip and wondered. Why is am I so happy? I had to find out, of course.
Let’s start with the “end of the world party”
It all began here – a party to have fun and forget about this election. The scene was tame at first. We talked a little about politics until our host threatened to make us where ridiculous costumes if we continued and books (real books not Facebook, just because it has “book” in the name doesn’t make it a book.) Alright we talked about Facebook and Twitter too. Social media is inescapable. We ate fun themed food and had a few subdued cocktails.
Then, things got wild because we’re awesome and fun people. There were drinks, dancing, gambling, celebrities (OK just in our imaginations), dogs with hats and some kick butt jalapeno cheese dip. Did I mention the dancing?
Women over 30 can have fun? (To quote the magnet on the fridge – inconceivable! Or is it?)
For a small moment in time, I did forget all about emails and twitter rants, indictments and political pundits.
Then morning came. In a post-party malaise, I prepared myself to go to the polls, cast my vote and feel depressed about the world again.
Voting is often inconvenient, time-consuming and may even seem pointless. -APA article, Why Do We Vote?
But, something strange happened after I filled in my little circle and got my “I voted” sticker. I didn’t feel depressed. I actually felt good. I felt proud. I felt happy. I’ve voted before. But, I never had this kind of response, which seemed counterintuitive given this election, right? It was so surprising I had to stop for a moment and make sure I didn’t fall down, bump my head and was now dreaming in a coma. (I didn’t.)
Turns out, though, I’m not alone. Apparently other people feel this way too (happiness after voting, not wondering if they’re in a coma).
“This has been a tough election cycle. Voting reminded me of how grateful I am.Grateful for my family and my neighborhood and my country. Gratitude for democracy and the ability to vote. These elements of my life are so easy to take for granted, and yet play such an important part of my daily happiness.” — Gretchen Rubin, Author
“I remember voting for the first time at about your same age. I felt pretty special when I finished. It makes you feel you have done something very important and serious. You feel more a part of this big nation of ours.” — Stephanie Brake
“So let me be clear: I am all for voting! It is important for our collective democracy as well as for our own sense of who we are as individual Americans. Voting makes people feel connected and involved. It is a good thing!” — Michal Ann Strahilevitz Ph.D.
Robert Putnam wrote in his book Bowling Alone that feeling included and tied to other people, such as through voting, means that you’ll be more likely to contribute to society and such social ties may contribute to your sense of well-being. A theory by Harvard University economist Julio Rotemberg called “Attitude-Dependent Altruism, Turnout and Voting” states that voting makes us happier by helping us feel connected to people with whom we agree. Voting may also contribute to your overall mental health. (Who knew? Well, I guess these people. But not me!)
Researchers say expressing your right to vote may help promote good mental health and, in turn, good physical health, but some people will likely benefit from voting more than others. — Voting Counts as a Healthy Habit, WebMD
Whatever the reason, either just the chemical reactions in our bodies or our need to feel connected, voting can make people happy and it’s good for us. Go figure! Out of negativity can come postivity, no matter the outcome. I, for one, am happy about that.