Getting older can be scary. But what many people fail to realize is that it also often brings greater happiness and general satisfaction.
While middle adulthood is filled with the many responsibilities of careers and family, later adulthood frequently offers greater freedom from these burdens. In fact, many studies have shown that people are often happier as they mature past middle age. For instance, one study by the researchers David Blanchflower and Andrew Oswald studied the happiness of people in 72 countries. They found that in the majority of countries, people are least happy during their late 40s but often experience much greater happiness and life satisfaction in the years that follow.
When people no longer have so many daily responsibilities, they can take life at a slower pace. They can think more about their lives and with more perspective, which is something that can also come naturally with age. As a result, as you age, it’s easier to be clear about your priorities and invest your time and attention on the things that matter most to you. (This reminds me of my grandmother’s oft-repeated advice that when you have your health, you have everything – wisdom lost on a young, healthy child who took her health for granted.) Living more fully in line with their true priorities, older people often experience a sense of well-being.
Age also frequently brings a mellowing. People who were once impulsive, angry, or highly concerned about what everyone else thought of them frequently become less intensely emotional in these areas. You may worry less about the judgment of others, feel better about yourself, and have less disruptive and more fulfilling relationships.
As you age, you may also find yourself measuring your life by the amount of time you have left, which can motivate you to find a way to make peace with your life. You may be more likely to work on letting go of, or being less consumed by, disappointments, regrets, and grudges. And you may be more open to enjoying life’s joys and blessings – both big and small.
If you take good care of your body and mind as you go into your golden years, you are even more likely to flourish on physical, emotional, and social levels. Much of this comes down to maintaining a healthy lifestyle: exercising regularly, getting sufficient sleep (including taking naps as necessary), having a healthy diet, and keeping an active, emotionally supportive social life. It’s also important to keep your mind sharp by reading, learning new things, and remaining intellectually engaged in the world around you. And if you make efforts to cultivate a positive attitude, as well, you’ll have a winning combination.
Of course, not everyone becomes happier as they age. Some people are overcome by the many stresses and struggles of aging. Others simply mature from unhappy younger people into unhappy older ones. Still, aging can have its benefits. And if you focus on the upsides, you give yourself an even better chance of being happy and content as you progress into what will hopefully truly be your “golden years.”