When you pass into middle age, it can sometimes feel as if your best years are behind you. You might even doubt that finding happiness (if you still seek it) is possible.
“Youth is wasted on the young.” Ted Cook
Those of us in the older generations are labeled as stodgy, boring, and bitter. Our opinions (even among the darling boys and girls we raise ourselves) are easily swept aside with phrases that include some real winners.
“That’s old-fashioned.” “Things aren’t like that anymore.” And my personal favorite, “If you were my age, you’d get it.”
Ah, the hubris of fledgling humans who always know better – and more – than those of us well past the bloom of youth. Perhaps you remember saying (more likely thinking) things like this about your own parents when you were coming into adulthood.
The truth is, none of us get to forty and beyond without regrets. You probably have a quiet list of them in the back of your mind. I know I do. A relationship you should have avoided (or pursued), a job you should have passed on (or fought for), or changes to your diet or lifestyle you wish you’d thought about in your twenties.
Regrets are natural. Mistakes aren’t confined to any particular group. Happiness is not exclusive to those with the tightest bodies or supple skin.
It’s how you deal with your past that truly drives your future. It’s what shaped you, what brought you to this moment, and what drives your decisions now. You wouldn’t be you without all the good, the bad, and the ugly.It’s how you deal with your past that truly drives your future.Click To Tweet
The Edge Offered by Age
There’s something I want to tell you and it’s really (really) important that you believe it. No matter your age, gender, or current status in life…it’s never too late to find happiness.
In fact, we “older folks” have a better chance at it than the young’uns.
You read that right. In the grand scheme of things, older people still have the edge in the pursuit of happiness.
1. We have knowledge. While it’s true we don’t know everything, we’ve been around long enough to accumulate information in all sorts of areas. We’ve also messed up enough to (hopefully) gain the most elusive form of wisdom: common sense. The next time a young person in your life acts as if you’ve never cooked, gone on a job interview, or handled a confrontation, you can feel a little smug knowing you could really and truthfully help them if they weren’t so stubborn and condescending.
Dr. Michael Ramscar at Germany’s Tübingen University explained, “The human brain works slower in old age but only because we have stored more information over time.” That means it takes us a bit longer to sort through all that knowledge to find that pure nugget of wisdom a young person could use to avoid a mistake we made decades ago. They probably won’t…but they could.
2. We don’t sweat the small stuff. One of the biggest misconceptions about older people is that we’re stressed out all the time. Personally, I do stress about the work I do but I no longer stress about little things like what I’m wearing, how people perceive me, or keeping up with the lifestyle of someone else.
Discarding all the nonsense makes it easier to focus on the things that matter like health, finding happiness, family, and friends. Sure, you might hate the wrinkles or extra weight but it’s doubtful you obsess about your outer appearance as much as you once did.
3. We have our finances (mostly) in order. While it’s not true for everyone, people my age are a little more stable in the income and outgo departments. Our kids are grown and possibly out of the house, we don’t buy as impulsively, and we take our credit score seriously enough not to get in over our heads for non-necessity items.
Some of us have developed a habit of saving and this is (unfortunately) sorely overlooked by young people. I tell my grown kids to save $20 from every paycheck. If they never increase that amount, in 30 years – at my age – they’ll have a solid $30,000 in the bank. It adds up so it’s never too late to start.
4. We have friendships forged in fire. The friends you’ve found, lost, and nurtured over your lifetime says a lot about who you are as a person. People of middle-age and older have statistically dealt with the death of loved ones, divorces, trauma, and illness.
Loss, grief, struggle, and pain clearly define your character as much as success, happiness, stability, and love. They also clarify your inner circle – the men and women who are there in times of trouble as well as celebration.
5. We’re more likely rank our lives as “happy.” One survey found that the happiest people are over forty. They’re more likely to believe they’ve achieved work/life balance, are comfortable in daily life, and feel good in their own skin. Despite the aging process, health concerns, and changes in core relationships…we embrace life with gusto.
On the other hand, the twenty-somethings among us are completely stressed out and depressed. To those people, don’t lose hope! According to researchers with the University of California, you’ll be more successful finding happiness with each new decade. That’s right. Your happiness meter continues to climb into oldest age.
The reasoning for this can be traced back to freedom. Without so much of our time, money, and energy spent on the “little stuff,” we devote more resources to things we really enjoy.
Hang in There, Darling
No matter how you feel right this minute, no matter what’s going on in your life today, you have the ability to find happiness. Deep, lasting satisfaction with your life and who you are is possible with one small caveat…
Someone who loves being miserable (or the attention they gain from others for their misery) likely aren’t going to see their happiness meter move much. Toxic personalities who can’t seem to see the silver lining in anything rarely change their stripes as they age. If anything, that tendency toward intense negativity worsens over time.
On the other hand, if you’re already a generally happy person, you can expect that to keep growing right along with you, decade after decade.
Along with a happy mind is a happy body. Start good habits now (and kick the bad ones) to keep creeping health issues from tarnishing your golden years. Whether you’re 20, 40, 60, or 80 – it’s never too late (or too early) to take care of the only body you’ll ever have.
Love yourself, treat yourself well, and never stop striving for the happiness you deserve. It might seem too easy. Or, as my kids would tell me, “Duh.”
If you love articles like this, check out Alex’s book “Vivid Living” and learn how you can change your life in just ten minutes a day! Finding happiness, made easier.Love yourself, treat yourself well, and never stop striving for the happiness you deserve.Click To Tweet
Shayne McClendon is an author and positivity practitioner. Shayne believes love crosses all boundaries, social castes, races, genders, and belief systems. If you are lucky enough to find soul-deep love, you should fight for it. Life-certified, reader approved.
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