This might come as a surprise, but recent studies are finding that people actually tend to get happier as they age – not the reverse. When we reach middle age, that’s another story. In truth, people are most depressed when they reach middle age.
In our middle age, we have painfully realized that our youth is now behind us and we are now saddled with all of life’s responsibilities and expectations. Work, obligation, marriage, children, mortgages, aging parents and saving for retirement can, when taken together, suppress ones level of wellbeing and love of life. But recent studies have shown that most people’s unhappiness seems to plateau out at around 50 years of age and from that point on, the curve takes an upward trajectory.
As one ages, anxieties and worries that plague us in middle-age begin to diminish. If one is fortunate to have good genes or those who have done a good job of paying attention to their health, old age can be extremely freeing and liberating. There is more of a sense of accomplishment and confidence. There is this innate ability to apply a life’s worth of wisdom to our everyday challenges. There is a sense that everything will generally turn out all right. Surviving loss is easier and more expected, and we are able to bounce back from upset and disappointment with grace and acceptance.
People get better at handling life’s challenges because they have learned how to survive in the world and have accomplished things that younger people may not attain for decades. The Wisdom Paradox by Elkhonen Goldberg, details how the brain changes and deteriorates as we age, cells die, and mental capacity diminishes. But for those of us who have lived a life filled with intellectual curiosity and love for the truth tend to become more empathetic with age and are much more able to access our own wisdom and knowledge to find happiness. This provides us with a sense of wellbeing and contentment. Now that’s something to smile about.