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What's Up Magazine

The Age of Happiness

Feb 01, 2018 10:11AM
By Kelsey Casselbury

Have the good ol’ days come and gone? Not necessarily, research says. Despite the stereotype of grumpy old men yelling for kids to get off the lawn, folks tend to feel happier as they get older, with those over age 65 reporting the highest levels of happiness. Additionally, people of all ages reported being happier in 2017 than they were in 2016, according to a Harris Poll Survey. 

Wait, what? With all that’s going on in the world right now, people are actually happier than they were last year? “I think that it would be easy to say that no one is happy because of everything that is on the news these days, but that may not be entirely accurate,” says Chelsea Haverly, LCSW-C, of Anchored Hope Therapy in Annapolis. “People are taking things for granted less often than in the past, they are living more mindfully, and in the current moment.” And that, she notes, can definitely lead to happiness. 

Those who are having a harder time feeling that mindful optimism, though, can take a page out of their elders’ playbook. Here’s how: 

Let it go.

Elsa might not be over age 65, but she certainly had the right idea. Part of the reason seniors feel happier is because they don’t worry about the things that younger people tend to fret over, found the Harvard Study of Adult Development, an impressive 80-year look at the mental health of more than 700 participants. Older adults also let go of past failures, focusing on what makes them happy now

Work it out.

Need even more proof that exercise is good for you? A 2017 study published in Annals of Behavioral Health determined that more physical activity led to stronger feelings of well-being in nearly 10,000 adults over age 50. So, try something new, whether it’s a Zumba class, indoor rock climbing, or boxing. 

Slow down.

People in their 60s often have the luxury of more time, notes Haverly. “They’re often less scheduled and less frantic in their efforts to fit a week into a few days.” It’s not possible for everyone to cut back on activities or obligations, but if you can—do it! Refusing to rush from place to place and task to task really frees up both personal time for self-care and mental brain power, allowing you to relax. 

Find a connection.

That 80-year study from Harvard also noted a strong association between happiness and
maintaining close relationships. Haverly reiterates the importance of these connections. “We are all wired for meaningful connections with others, and those that find it often report lower levels of stress and more happiness,” she says. In fact, the Harvard study showed that relationships—not money—are the strongest predictor of happiness.