I’ve had this weird feeling of contentedness lately. Not that life has suddenly gotten so easy. California’s drying up and by all accounts we’re about 30 years overdue for a life-shattering earthquake. And that’s if climate change or a superbug don’t do us in first.
In spite of that, every now and then lately, I feel a soft flutter of joy, a wave of peacefulness.
It’s elusive and hard to describe–can you imagine trying to convince someone of déjà vu if the world had never heard of it? It’s like the happy feelings you get when returning to your old elementary school, or looking through photos of the good days in childhood. This feeling is evocative and nostalgic, but without the pain. I’ve never heard anyone talk about it. Am I alone in feeling it?
There are plenty of studies saying older people are happier, that somewhere north of fifty, things start to change. “They” don’t know why. It might be chemical or physical. It may be that our amygdalae are less on guard, because after a lifetime of experience we know what will kill us and what probably won’t.
With the amygdalae backing off, the prefrontal cortex can reassert itself. Older peeps are less reactive, more mellow. Maybe that’s why we’re said to be happier.
Have you felt it when you’re just going through the motions of your day?
We’re quick to agree we’re happier when a researcher asks us, or a group of friends get together to discuss it. But how about when you’re not thinking about it. Does it pop up for you?
It does for me. Unless it’s some kind of brain flare before I go all Phenomenon.
You could start watching for it. We knew to watch for signs of menopause. We’re totally on alert for dementia–admit it, you are. You knew to watch for gray hairs, and wrinkles, and sagging flapping skin.
Why not be on alert for signs of this midlife surge of happiness?
Younger people could look forward to it. There’d be a sense of fairness about getting old, a trade-off between what you lose and what you gain. People might even start to think, Damn, getting old might be okay.
How about you? Have you felt it, this older-age sense of contentment, peace, and even joy? Let me know.
Another movie for old peeps!
PS Sue Shoemaker told me about this new movie starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte. Here’s the trailer. It looks like fun! Remember to give the movie makers encouragement in the form of “liking” their page on Facebook or tweeting about it. See ya Tuesday.