For decades researchers have come up with conflicting evidence on the connecting between age and happiness. In 2013, Scientific American reported on a comprehensive study showing that, on average, most people become happier as they age. Peak happiness tended to be around the age of 60-70.
So how do you explain the "crotchety old man" stereotype? By the degree of suffering you experienced in childhood. For example, the Great Depression caused worldwide unhappiness, and although those children would continue to grow happier with age, happy children had a head start.
But wait! A new study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science shows a pattern reversal in the last 5 years. Instead of the moodiness of youth subsiding, older adults are feeling less satisfied than people in their 30s. The researchers suggest an intriguing reason: high expectations!
This shows we would do best to savor past and current accomplishments. Practice acceptance and gratitude while gently working to improve oneself. Engage in mindfulness practices proven to increase self-esteem and well-being.
If you do, it's very likely you'll grow happier and happier over the passage of time.
Don't abandon your dreams. Focus on future goals that bring deep meaning and purpose as you slowly move to them. Spend a few minutes realizing all the gifts you've received in every year of your life. Happiness is there, hiding in the neurons of your brain.
Take a moment, right now, and mindfully reflect on all the tiny accomplishments you’ve had this past week. Notice how it makes you feel to savor these past moments of success. Now reflect on your accomplishments this past month. Is your sense of happiness increasing? If you write down all of the pleasurable accomplishments in your life, you might just have a transformative and enlightening experience!
Age Brings Happiness: Exactly how much joy, however, depends on when you were born.
Karen Simring. Scientific American Mind, May 1, 2013.
More Happiness for Young People and Less for Mature Adults: Time Period Differences in Subjective Well-Being in the United States, 1972–2014.
Jean M. Twenge, Ryne A. Sherman, Sonja Lyubomirsky. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1-11-16.