Embrace aging, be happier
It’s never an easy decision to embrace aging.
When I first realized I was “getting older” at 40 years of age, I really freaked out. I was just getting into the groove of being “not old” and then that seemed to change overnight.
I was seriously unhappy at the time, and had the obligatory mid-life crisis.
After a while, I realized I’d have to embrace the changes – physical and emotional – if I was to cope with older age. And indeed, be able to step into the shoes of the wise woman I knew lurked within.
Since then, I’ve followed research on happiness and aging, and you know what? It consistently shows that older people are happier.
So here are 10 reasons older is happier, and why you should embrace aging:
1. Shared experiences are better
Shared experiences are more enriching than experiencing things on our own, and ultimately make us happier. They also add yet another layer of fond memories to our life.
We no longer need material things, such as a Porsche or fancy jewelry, to make us happy (well, some of us, anyway).
As we get older, we discover interesting, sometimes previously hidden, parts of ourselves. And because we no longer have the hang-ups of youth – school, college, new relationships, new careers, young children – there is little to prevent us exploring these.
It is easier, therefore, to seek out new adventures, and along the way, make new friends.
2. Near enough is now good enough
When we embrace aging, we get to a stage where we throw unrealistic expectations out the window and look for situations that are suitable to our life.
This doesn’t mean we drop the bar, though.
I used to be a bit of a perfectionist, but now my mantra is “near enough is good enough”.
I don’t want to spend 80% of my energy on getting the last 20% perfect. Instead, I want to enjoy my life with less striving to be perfect, and more focusing on the sometimes smaller gifts it brings.
3. Positive thinking is more prevalent
As we get older, we tend to think more positively. (Well, not all of us I suppose, but then we won’t tolerate those “glass half empty” people as much.)
This could be for numerous reasons, one of which is that we realize we’re not getting any younger; we want to live the best life we can in the time we have.
4. Negative memories decrease
We tend to recall positive memories and conveniently ditch the negative ones. There is no point in recounting the bad things in our past, as we can’t do anything about them.
Of course, this is easier said than done. But as we age, there are so many more memories to choose from, so we can choose to focus on the positive ones.
5. Appreciation increases
Our appreciation for our surroundings increases with age.
We notice little improvements that make big differences in our lives, such as better quality washing powder and easy-to-use kitchen aids – the types of things that mean we spend less time doing mundane chores and more on the things we love.
Let’s admit it, life was that little bit harder before technology came about. I think about mine before my Thermomix and realize how lucky I am to be able work like a Trojan and still eat great food.
6. Trusting is easier
What is the point in not trusting others? What kinds of emotions does distrust invoke? Usually, not positive ones.
To embrace aging is to decide to trust a little more. This opens the door to all sorts of new experiences, new friendships and new knowledge.
7. Emotional intelligence improves
Our emotional intelligence improves with age.
Getting older increases our ability to let go of negative emotional reactions to situations, and deal with those feelings in more productive ways.
Further, the capacity to regulate our reactions greatly improves our mental wellbeing.
8. Health becomes significantly more important
We have no choice but to recognize the importance of eating the right food and exercising regularly.
Friends begin losing family members to diseases such as cancer, and this is our wake up call to positively change our lifestyle.
I now know that I can no longer put off the “year of yoga”, and have to start practising quick smart if I don’t want to seize up as I age.
9. Networks have a higher value
We really get how important our work and social networks are.
I’ve suddenly hit tipping point with my networks and been lucky to enjoy all sorts of support from the relationships I’ve nurtured, particularly in the last two decades.
I wouldn’t enjoy my work – both emotionally or financially – anywhere near as much if I hadn’t consciously developed my work and industry relationships over the years.
10. We learn reflection
We want to be efficient with the time we have left – something we keenly realize is unknown. This bittersweet understanding means the good things really stand out.
We don’t want to live out the sins of our parents, or repeat our own mistakes.
We get better at looking at our actions from another’s point of view; at taking a step back and considering how our behavior might be perceived by another.
Age is just a number
As you contemplate the demise of your youth, stop.
We can reframe things differently if we choose. We can choose to embrace aging with an understanding that we have probably spent the first 50 years in a hurry with no time, wisdom or awareness about what it all meant.
So next time you notice yet another spot or new wrinkle, ignore it.
Instead, focus on the many positives associated with moving into a brand new, and potentially very rich, phase of your life.