From age 50 on up, people report being happier. The question is why. I think they’ve found the answer.
I’m talking about the Happiness U-Curve, in which research has proven conclusively that most people are happy in young adulthood, become less happy in their forties, and perk up again in their fifties, beginning an upward trajectory that continues throughout the rest of their lives. This phenomenon is global, and persists even when you eliminate such factors as health, economic security, and love. Of course it’s not true of all of us.
But it’s big, people. Big. Enough that most of you will experience it.
Here are two of the most likely reasons we get happier in older age:
- Having a short time-horizon centers you. When you’re young, you have all this time to make mistakes and screw around, not sure what’s meaningful and what isn’t. It’s almost like the horizon is too vast, and you have no answers. But when your horizon is nearer, it’s less stressful, oddly enough. You are newly motivated to treasure every day. Life becomes richer, more meaningful.
- Your amygdala (the “fight or flight” part of your brain) become less reactive to bad news. According to MRIs, while young people’s amygdala react to everything, we mostly light up at happy stuff.
For me, there’s another reason: when I was younger, so many people were dependent on me, little kids and such. I couldn’t get sick and/or die…what would happen to them? But now everybody is grown and independent. If something happened to me, they’d be bummed, but they’d be okay. This is a load off.
What about you–why do you think people get happier as they get older?
PS Many thanks to Lisa Lehmann, who (with sponsorship from FeedBlitz) took the new headshot. She did it for me and dozens of ladies who attended the BAM conference last month. Besides being a gifted photographer, she designs jewelry. Here’s a link to her studio website.