Getting Older May be the Secret to Happiness

It may seem illogical, but you need to age to be truly happy. The years between 60 and 80 are when most people are the most joyful, according to a recent survey conducted by bank HSBC.

So how do all these people in their 60s and 70s find the key to happiness? It starts with obvious factors such as good health and a decent standard of living, but even these don’t contribute as much to one’s happiness as you might think. There aren’t any external factors that play a part in making people happy. Happiness is a natural outcome of aging that originates from within. That’s because the frequency with which negative feelings occur declines as you advance in years; when they do happen, they don’t last as long as when you are younger.

Of course, the level of happiness you achieve varies according to the individual. Your genetic makeup influences how happy you will be, as does your parents’ happiness. Your health can affect how content you are, too. People who are severely ill aren’t as happy as those in excellent health. But that’s true for all ages. The odd thing is that when researchers compared the morale of frail older adults to younger adults, the older adults beat the youngsters in the happiness department hands down, despite their infirmity.

Older adults can remain happy probably due to their desire to make the most of the time they have left. Knowing that the clock is ticking makes people figure out the things that make them angry and then either learn how to avoid them or what they can do to cope.

Researchers also noted that brain function changes with aging. Brain imaging studies found that older peoples’ brains react less intensely, and for a shorter period, to negative feelings. They concluded that one’s improved outlook on life is probably a combination of changes in perspective and changes to the amygdala, a part of the brain that processes emotion.

Another change with age is less emphasis on how much money one has, and cash only seems to have fundamental importance for those struggling to meet everyday expenses. People with a steady stream of income for life, no matter how small, learn to adjust to their new financial circumstances and find contentment.

Finally, continuing to engage in activities that you feel are important will add to your happiness. These activities need to contribute to taking care of a grandchild, doing volunteer work, or working in a second career. Getting involved is life-enhancing, and a little appreciation of life’s simple pleasures goes a long way toward happiness.