The brooding, silent stereotype just may be accurate. Studies reveal that happy people talk more. And discussing more substantial matters could boost happiness, since deeper conversations seem to help people connect with others and find meaning in their own lives.

Talk It Out – Why It Matters

Contrary to popular belief, the happiest college students aren’t downing Four Lokos. Instead, they seem to be talking: One study revealed that students who had the most meaningful conversations were happiest. While it isn’t clear whether the meaningful-conversation-chicken or happiness-egg came first, researchers felt there was a strong possibility that striking up a deep talk could in fact make people happier.

Another reason to settle down for a heart-to-heart is that keeping feelings silent can have negative repercussions. One study found suppressing disgust can make people feel negative long after a troublesome experience is over. While hiding true feelings may seem the key to popularity, going the passive route is more likely to result in unpleasant emotions.

The Shallow End — The Answer/Debate

On the other hand, a chat may make us feel good regardless of how meaningful it is. A study of adults 65 and older suggests that people are happier when they spend more time talking to family members about any topicFeeling of well-being and family contacts in community elderly residents. Okamoto, K. Department of Public Health, Aichi Prefectural College of Nursing and Health. Japanese Journal of Geriatrics 2000 Feb;37(2):149-54. Similarly, adolescents with sisters report fewer sad feelings than kids without sisters (not to mention they can choreograph a pretty stellar song-and-dance-routine). Despite the stereotype that women talk all about emotions, some researchers believe conversation in general can make people happy, and sisters are usually more talkative.

Research also suggests that people who suffer from psychological problems like anxiety can be less talkative. Anxious teens tend to be less happy and have fewer conversations of all kinds than calmer teensAnxiety, affect, and activity in teenagers: monitoring daily life with electronic diaries. Henker, B., Whalen, C.K., Jamner, L.D., et al. Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 2002 Jun;41(6):660-70. While research has yet to conclude whether there’s a causal relationship between gabbing it up and feeling good, a chat with a friend or a family member probably couldn’t hurt.

Photo by Marissa Angell