As Dalai Lama once said, “Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” Throughout life, we experience ups and downs with happiness. According to a recent study, happiness often declines from young adulthood through middle age, with self-reported happiness bottoming out around age 50.
Interestingly, later in the mid-60s, individuals reported their happiness levels were heading back up. The key question is, how do you keep that positive trajectory going later in life?
While there are so many things we cannot control – from losing a loved one to overcoming a certain health condition or even an unexpected life change like a cross-country move – there are still many things we can do to keep us living each day to the fullest.
Making a conscious effort to focus on what is happening in the present, versus past events or anxieties about the future, will keep you focused on making the most out of the day – even hour – you are in.
Staying present also means avoiding dwelling on what is not happening. Those who reported being unhappy focused on what was not happening as much as what was happening, and as they say, comparison is the enemy of joy.
Arguably, the best way to improve your mood is to prioritize exercise at every age. Exercise sends endorphins and feel-good hormones throughout your body that naturally boost your mood. Block time off in your day to join a group fitness class or go on a daily walk with a friend around your neighborhood.
Not only will this add physical movement to your day, but it will add social fulfillment to your life. If you are concerned about your physical abilities, speak with your physician to create a plan that is right for you.
Having an active mind can lead to a longer, happier life. Read books on new topics, learn the language you always wished to master, take an online class. As important as it is to move your body every day, it is just as important to engage in lifelong, purposeful learning. Learning also keeps your mental health in check and can strengthen synapses that support memory and emotion.
Whether it be a pandemic, unexpected loss, or the stress of moving out of your home, life distresses are inevitable. The more you practice healthy ways to navigate difficult situations, the happier you will be.
Strategies to help you cope could include meditation, breathing exercises, talking to a friend or loved one, reaching out to a spiritual mentor, joining a support group, or seeing a therapist. The more prepared you are to handle tough emotions and events, the happier you will be as you come out the other side.
Nurturing relationships in your life bring you joy and leave you feeling fulfilled. For many, these relationships are steady life partners, supportive friends and family, and community groups. Finding the community that is there to support you, grow with you, and that you can count on will fulfill the human need for belonging. Surround yourself with others that are happy, as studies have shown that the happiness can spread to you.
Always wanted to visit Paris, try a polar plunge, learn to paint or pick up an instrument from childhood? Book the trip you have been putting off and do the things you haven’t done! Not only will this give you new memories that last a lifetime, but you will also experience joy from honoring your true self and ambitions. After all, you have one life, so why not live it chasing your dreams?
No matter your age – happiness is a lifelong journey. Go live the life you’ve always wanted and share your zest for life with those around you. Lose yourself in something you love.
When was the last time you were unhappy? Why? What does happiness mean to you? What activities bring you joy? How will you chase joy this week?