C’mon get happy… eventually
According to a recent study by Gallup and the State University of NY, happiness increases with age. Eventually.
Apparently we get sadder through life until we bottom out at 50, then – cue the mid life crisis – and we start getting happy until we peak at 85. So suck it, 20 year olds.
With this news that the Golden Girls actually did have it right, I’m starting to envisage my future.
I can look forward to my happiest of days spent swanning around a Miami Beach condo in a kaftan with my best friends (and my mother?) before heading out on a date with a randy octogenarian. (I’m totally going to be Blanche, Hope can be Bea Arthur). In the meantime I apparently need to shore up the Lexapro cos I’ve got the darkest days ahead. 41 through 49… grim, apparently.
So why this U turn? Why do we get increasingly miserable and then flip it around at 50?
I guess it makes sense.
Physically after 20, stuff starts failing, you can’t live on burritos and beer any more, stuff gets pudgy and by the time you hit 40, most people have abandoned all hope and embraced the elastic waistband. For those of us fighting the good fight, we’ve decided to try to like quinoa and we battle it out at the gym instead of following our instincts and drowning our sorrows in red wine and a take out.
Emotionally, at 20 you don’t know shit and therefore you’re pretty happy if you can feed and clothe yourself 7 days a week. You exist in a bubble of ‘me’ (I’m still in mine and quite happy thank you). However with age comes responsibility and as you hit your mid 30s, its all about marriage, kids, mortgages, learning difficulties and soccer practice through to your 40s. At which point you get to spend everything you’ve saved on sending your progeny off to funnel beer and get laid for 4 years. Aka college. Which is right around the time that most couples start to question that whole ’til death do us part’ and whether flirting with Tina/ Tom at work really counts as cheating.
By the time the majority of folks hit the late 40s, its no wonder that happiness bottoms out. You might be overweight, over-leveraged, supporting several kids through educational pursuits or, god forbid, moving them back home. You’ve peaked in your career and are nervous about the whippersnappers biting your heels, plus you’ve probably realized at this point that no, you’re not going to ever afford that boat. Your spouse no longer resembles the person you married, but from what you hear from your divorced friends, the alternatives aren’t that great either.
Damn.. how do you even get out of bed?
But then 50 hits. And apparently in facing the inevitable downslope towards death, you start not giving a shit, you realize that you can’t please everyone and, according to these studies, you develop a deeper appreciation of the value of life.
Which means you stop funding your daughters forays into interpretative dance, you invest some time in doing things you like to do (buy that motorcycle, start Crossfit, discover the joys of shooting things), and start to enjoy life again. By the time you’re 85, I guess you can add a small amount of senility to that picture and damn, you can’t even remember what you were stressed about at 45.
Another key finding of the study was the ability to live in the present and not worry about the future. Well I guess at 85, you kind of have to. But for most of us, this is the one thing which we can affect, regardless of our circumstances, finances or health. By not worrying about tomorrow, next week or next year, you save yourself oodles of stress, worrying and general unhappiness. And unlike not giving a shit or putting yourself first, this is something everyone can actually do today.
So I think I’m going to set myself this challenge. Try to live just 1 day in the present. Just one day. Maybe today. Anytime I start thinking ahead, I’m going to stop myself and focus on being present. Enjoying the moment, even if its just sniffing the fumes as I fill up my gas tank or feeling strong at the gym, listening to my dog snore or drinking some tea. Today I will bask in the afterglow of a great date, sip my tea, and in a minute, find joy in walking my dog. I’m not sure if that’s the key to happiness, but I’m game for anything.I will, as Ram Kaas said, be here now.
And if I can’t, I know I’ll be there at 85.