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Want to enjoy your Sunday? Go to church, Gallup poll says


Catholic comedian Jim Gaffigan complains that sometimes when he attends Catholic mass, it seems they are dragging it out on purpose.

"Let's wrap it up," Gaffigan kids. "I've got some sinning to do."

Despite his impatience with the process, Gaffigan's consistent Sunday attendance would actually lift his mood for the day. According to a new Gallup poll, Americans' positive emotions go up as the weekend nears but then drop on Sundays as the new week approaches, except for those who attend church weekly.

Gallup also reports that churchgoers have higher wellbeing in general among the American populace in addition to the emotional boost they get on Sundays.

The figures match up with a study reported on last year by the New York Times. Researchers from DePaul University in Chicago and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel tracked church attendance and levels of happiness among Americans in states that recently repealed "blue laws" ­­— laws that prohibited retailers from being open on Sunday.

They found that after the repeal of the laws and the opening of stores, church attendance declined among women, with about 17 percent less likely to report being “pretty happy,” and more likely to report being “not happy." Notably, the repeal of blue laws didn't influence church attendance or levels of happiness among men.

“Shopping is kind of addictive, and even though it doesn’t make people happy, they’re doing it and they don’t return to church as much because of that,’’ DePaul professor of economics William Sander said. “There is instant gratification from shopping compared to the benefits of church, which may occur over a longer period of time.’’

The reflective nature of church combined with the service aspect of a religious community may also play a part in the emotional boost. According to LiveScience, people who look back on their experiences savoring happy memories and putting bad ones in an optimistic light, combined with participating in activities to promote happiness usually report more positive emotions.

"Wanting to be happy can make you less happy," University of Denver assistant psychology professor Iris Mauss told LiveScience. "If you explicitly and purposely focus on happiness, that appears to have a self-defeating quality."