Think you need serious people to tackle serious problems? You’re wrong.

Sometimes, people who are really serious about protecting the environment have similar qualities. One of those qualities is, well, sort of the opposite of happy.

In surveys, people view happy people as being less serious, even a little spacey and shallow.

So, it follows that to be taken seriously, you should show people just how unhappy you are. Somehow that shows that you care, on a really deep level, about the serious environmental challenges that surround us.

But author of The Happiness Project Gretchen Rubin proves otherwise.

Happiness Makes the World Go Round

In the Interview section of her book, Ms. Rubin was asked: “Did it ever occur to you that spending so much time working on your own personal happiness was, well, selfish and self-centered?”

She responded yes and yes, with an exception.

…It turns out that happier people are more likely to help other people, they’re more interested in social problems, they do more volunteer work, and they contribute more to charity. They’re less preoccupied with their personal problems. They’re friendlier. They make better leaders.

By contrast, less-happy people are more apt to be defensive, isolated, and self-absorbed, and, unfortunately, their negative moods are catching (technical name: emotional contagion).

So, working on your own happiness is actually the opposite of selfish and self-centered after all.

How Happy Environmental Supporters Can Help You

As usual, when stumbling upon a fun piece of trivia like this, I totally geeked out and instantly related this sentiment to environmental communication.

Let’s go over the high points of Ms. Rubin’s argument:

  • Happy people are more likely to help others
  • Happy people are more interested in social problems
  • Happy people do more volunteer work
  • Happy people contribute more to charity

And those are just the ones that could be directly related to joining your environmental cause. But there’s more…

  • Happy people are less focused on their own problems (leaving room for caring about other issues)
  • Happy people are friendlier
  • Happy people make better leaders (who among us could use a volunteer coordinator or lead on a beach cleanup project!?)

Let’s look at those super serious environmentally-minded, strap-yourselves-to-a-tree-in-the-name-of-martyrdom types:

  • Less-happy people are more defensive
  • Less-happy people are more isolated
  • Less-happy people are more self-absorbed
  • Less-happy people have a way of spreading their negativity to others

Seek Out the Happy People, and You’ll Find the Right Donors, Volunteers, and Supporters

When you’re doing your environmental marketing, do whatever it takes to speak directly to the people who find real joy in their world. Craft your materials to speak to people who are happy, upbeat, and interested in what you have to say. And not because it will only prove their gloom-and-doom attitude, but because they think they can help.

Those happy people are more likely to listen to you, and truly believe that volunteering their time or donating their money to your cause will make a difference.

Internally, look for the same people when you’re hiring. They’ll be better foot soldiers, but more importantly, they’ll also make better leaders.

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