Saving energy will make you happier, study says

If you cut back on your energy usage, you will be a happier person -- and not just because of all the money you'll save on your electricity bill. It turns out many of the activities that make people happier, like sleeping and socializing, are those that involve little or no household energy. That's according to a study released by the University of California at Berkeley that found that a blissful lifestyle is perfectly congruent with a low carbon footprint.

"A number of the least energy intensive activities that I found -- sleeping, socializing, hobbies, and so forth -- are enriching personally," study author John Kantenbacher told the Washington Post. "So they make people happy to do them, but they also are relatively low consuming activities."

The report breaks down five of the most beneficial activities and how they help save energy:

  • Beautiful slumber: Naturally, sleeping saves energy. The lights and television are off, and nestled snug under the covers, you can turn the heat down a few notches as well. And getting a good night's sleep is also crucial to your happiness and well-being, Kantenbacher found. Sleeping well has been linked to life satisfaction, as well as reduced rates of chronic illness.
  • Enjoy your social life: Humans need connections to other humans. A good social life is important for maintaining positive emotions. And there's no burden on your utility bills -- it doesn't cost anything to have a conversation, and with several families gathered in the same place, you don't need to heat and light multiple houses at the same time. The caveat is that if you take a car to go hang out with other people, you're burning up gasoline, so for maximum energy savings host the party at your own home.
  • Get a hobby: Or go to church, or volunteer at the local soup kitchen. These activities are good for you in the same way as socializing, with the added benefit of feeling meaningful and helpful toward others. Plus, unless your hobbies involve high-energy physics experiments, they don't take much in the way of electricity or fuel to pursue.
  • Go for a hike: Enjoy some exercise in the great outdoors and feel the serious benefits to both your mental and physical well-being. And whether you run, walk, bike, lift weights or play a sport, as long as you don't drive a car to do it you're remaining fossil fuel-neutral.
  • Work from home: This item is about avoiding things that make you miserable. According to one study, the morning commute to work is the number one happiness killer, with the evening commute home ranking in at number three. And it goes without saying that you are burning up fuel while you sit in a traffic jam on the highway. So you can save the planet and your own sanity if you can work from home, or close to home, or at least use public transit to get back and forth.

So the next time someone asks you why you are so happy, just smile and tell them it's because of your energy-efficient lifestyle.

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