Worship Makes You Happy; TV Does Not
The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a study of 4,000 Americans by academics Daniel Kahneman, Alan Krueger, David Schkade, Norbert Schwarz, and Arthur Stone. The survey focused on the reasons why the sharp rise in our standard of living in recent decades has not resulted in a corresponding rise in levels of happiness among people when compared to earlier generations.
The article postulates why this stagnant state may exist among Americans:
The standout cluster was what the authors label “engaging leisure and spiritual activities,” things like visiting friends, exercising, attending church, listening to music, fishing, reading a book, sitting in a cafe or going to a party. When we spend time on our favorite of these activities, we’re typically happy, engrossed and not especially stressed.
The obvious implication: If we devote more time to these activities, maybe we would be more satisfied with our lives. Yet the evidence suggests we’ve missed a huge chance to do just that — which may help explain why Americans are little or no happier than they were four decades ago.
Over that stretch, men reduced the amount of time they spent working. Meanwhile, women — as a group — spent more time earning income, reflecting their increased work-force participation. But this increased time at the office was more than offset by a drop in time devoted to mundane chores.
In other words, both men and women had the chance to lavish more time on “engaging leisure and spiritual activities.” But in fact, time spent on these activities has actually declined over the past four decades.
Instead, there’s been a significant increase in the hours devoted to what the authors call “neutral downtime,” which is mostly watching television. Women now spend 15% of their waking hours staring at the tube, while men devote 17%.
My hope is that worship isn’t “neutral downtime” for those attending church. While it’s certainly not definitive, this study supports the notion that we should be actively engaged in worship, not just being entertained. And while I believe that video clips and the Internet can be appropriately incorporated into a worship experience, how far is too far? What’s your take?