While many people think of youth as the most carefree time in a person’s life, the Gallup Global Emotions poll published in 2019 found that as those surveyed got older, they also reported less overall life stress.
In his 2018 book The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50 journalist Jonathan Rauch’s roundup of research on this trend, found that people’s reported levels of happiness were highest at age 20, bottoming out in their 40s and 50s, then rising upward as they reached their 80s.
What could possibly cause this phenomenon? Here are some reasons why we get progressively happier and experience less stress after we hit 50.
Our expectations adjust
Getting older can help us adjust our expectations for what we can achieve in our lives, and how happy those achievements will make us feel. Realizing that the time left to significantly change our lives is limited, we can choose to focus on the things that mean the most to us, whether it’s attending church, fly-fishing, volunteering in the community or playing with our grandchildren. In the coming years, knowing we are focusing solely on what makes us happy can be a reassuring feeling.
We gain a new perspective
Sociology professor Monika Ardelt defines wisdom in three parts: insight gained over time for living well; the ability to see events from a new perspective; and increased compassion for others. Getting older, we develop insight and knowledge into what we personally need to achieve contentment, said Ardelt, and we also gain a better understanding of other people’s motivations and personalities, which allows us to feel more sympathy for them.
Our brains evolve
It may be surprising to learn that the human brain’s structure is not fixed and static. In fact, our brains can increase the number of neurons and alter the connections between them, a concept known as neuroplasticity. According to Deepak Chopra, physician and bestselling author of Super Brain, as they age, people can begin to power these biological processes on their own by thinking in a more mindful way; personally, Chopra uses yoga and meditation as his core mindfulness practices.
We avoid toxic people
Socioemotional selectivity theory states that as we age, we become more selective in how we spend our time and with whom. Younger people effectively act as if their time is limitless and therefore tend to be less discriminating in how they spend it; for example, they may spend considerable time and energy dealing with the stressful people in their lives. As we age, though, we see that we can afford to be more selective about who we socialize with, and we learn that it’s acceptable to remove ourselves from an uncomfortable situation, even if we may appear unfriendly.
Life changes can’t scare us
As youngsters, many of us imagine every life event as either a tragedy or a success. But over time, people tend to move away from that black-and-white way of thinking and see that stressful change is part of life, whether it’s divorce, moving across the country, a relative or spouse passing away, breaking up with a partner, dealing with illness or losing a friendship. Realizing this, we can change our way of thinking, start focusing on the present and better manage our emotions as we navigate life changes.
With a robust social calendar, ample outdoor spaces and access to all that Colorado has to offer, for residents at The Avenues Crofton Park, getting older is synonymous with getting happier. Reach out and learn more about The Avenues today! Give us a call at 720-799-0915, or schedule your private tour.