7 Ways to Increase Happiness as You Age
Most people aren’t exactly thrilled at the realization that they’re getting older. People spend billions of dollars every year on all sorts of things to help them look and feel younger in hopes of warding off old age for as long as possible.
Interestingly enough, a psychological study has shown that the aging process isn’t as miserable as you might think. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It turns out that older people tend to be much happier compared to younger people.
As people age, their negative outlooks on the world and their own lives actually decrease. According to the researchers, this might stem from changes in older people’s environments, psychology or even biology (such as their brain chemistry).
Whatever the reason, it’s good news for people who need something to look forward to as they get older. Here are just a few things you may want to be a little more conscious of to make sure you maximize your own sense of happiness as you get older, too.
1. Make positivity a habit, starting now rather than later.
According to a Yale University study, people who have more positive feelings about aging tend to outlive those who think negatively about it—by about 7.5 years. If you’re constantly being distracted and brought down by that little negative voice inside your head, you can bet that it’ll be harder to keep up a positive attitude later on in life as well.
Make a commitment to start monitoring what that little voice inside your head is saying to you, and challenge any negative thoughts with more practical or positive thoughts instead.
2. Explore more interests so you have at least a few good core pursuits to fulfill you in old age.
Family and work certainly are important for pretty much everybody, but what happens when you dedicate your entire life to those two things and then find yourself with nothing to do when the kids are all grown up and you’ve retired? Author Wes Moss looked at data from happy retired people and found that the happiest were involved in about 3 to 5 different activities they enjoyed.
It’s never too early to start volunteering for a cause that’s meaningful to you, traveling to places you’ve never been before or getting reacquainted with that old guitar again that’s been hiding in your closet for years. Doing things that you genuinely love to do will certainly make a difference in your level of happiness.
3. Start meditating if you haven’t already.
As we age, our memory and cognitive function tend to deteriorate. Meditation, however, has been shown to slow down the aging process of the brain by physically changing it. It also helps ward off certain negative emotions and mental states (like anxiety and depression) that keep us from being happy.
For a healthy and sharp brain now and in old age, try staying consistent with a short meditation session every day. Here are eight more reasons to give meditation a try.
4. Make exercise a priority and a lifelong habit.
One of the biggest risks associated with aging is frailty, but some health professionals argue that a weak and delicate body doesn’t have to be inevitable as we age. By maintaining an active lifestyle and coupling it with proper nutrition and other good lifestyle habits, virtually any healthy individual can stay strong well into their senior years.
Exercise isn’t just for the young and extremely athletic. Even if you’re overweight and a smoker, a regular exercise habit can still slow down the aging process.
5. Keep in touch with friends.
Research has shown that older adults who maintain relationships with friends and acquaintances live longer and experience less cognitive decline than those who don’t. Regular social interaction also simply helps prevent feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Even if you’re a total introvert, making an effort to get together with old friends while also aiming to add new friends to your social circle through mutual friends, local clubs, volunteer groups and other social situations will help you stay happy for longer throughout your life.
6. Nurture and cherish your relationship with your spouse.
Studies have shown that married people tend to be happier and more satisfied with their lives when compared to single people. Long-term relationships where each partner supports the other during harder times when life satisfaction tends to go down a bit, particularly during middle age, tends to lead to increased happiness down the road.
Staying single of course doesn’t absolutely guarantee misery. Given that we’re such social and emotional creatures, however, real companionship just has a lot to offer us.
7. Find your sense of purpose.
Whether you decide to keep working part-time past the retirement stage, start your own business based on a beloved hobby of yours, or become determined to teach your grandkids an important skill—having some sense of purpose in old age is better than just looking to stay comfortable and entertained every day.
No matter what your age is, people who actively explore, identify and pursue a sense of purpose tend to be more satisfied with their lives. Your purpose may change over the years, but it never completely goes away and leaves you with nothing to do (unless that’s the unfortunate path you decide to choose).
So in conclusion, there’s definitely a lot to look forward about getting older. Much of society hasn’t exactly embraced the idea of aging happily and gracefully just yet, but we’re getting there.
Photo Credit: Roberto Cacho Toca