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Expert advice: Talking affects your happiness

Engaged conversation proves more important than small talk


What you talk about affects your happiness. That’s a summary of a study published in Psychological Review. Recent findings claim that “the happiest people had twice as many substantive conversations or discussions about meaningful information (like current affairs) and one-third as much small talk about trivial information such as the weather.

If that’s true, then we must be full of smiles and laughter as well as be expert conversationalists on the coming election and the health of the economy and the status of things in the Middle East. Candidate forums provide much of the “meat” of local issues.

Several forums are being held here at Mary’s Woods and all local residents are invited to come. The Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce and other organizations are offering meetings with office seekers too. To be informed voters we need to not only know about the people running for office, but also about local and state measures on the ballot.

The League of Women Voters of Oregon has said, “Voters will face nine state ballot measures that could have critical impacts on the future of Oregon.”

When we receive our ballots we’ll see the state measures, and I expect a variety of opinion pieces for or against many of them. The conversations that they can provoke certainly should generate active conversations — and according to the psychologists, the talk will be about important issues, not trivial topics like the weather

There’s a new source of voter information that I learned about at a recent meeting. Material from the Healthy Democracy Fund said “Oregon Legislature passes landmark initiative reform legislation: The Citizens’ Initiative Review becomes law.”

Look for this organization’s comments as part of the information you receive with your ballot. The co-authors of the Psychological Science report also tell us that happy people spend less time alone and more time talking to others than unhappy people do.

My advice: Be informed. Get out there to talk to people. Share ideas. Smile! Let a smile be your umbrella. After all, it’s sure to be raining again sometime.

Ardis Stevenson is a member of Mary’s Woods Active Retirement Community in Lake Oswego.