Last weekend, whilst running my hypnotherapy diploma course, I happened to mention my Grandfather who passed away a few years ago… Anyone who knew him or met him loved him. He was always laughing and joking and seemingly happy. I loved being in the pub with him, being at sport events with him and family gatherings with him.
I only really knew him as an older man, but certainly the impression I got was that he was much happier in all manner of ways as he got older.
Just last week, this article in the New York Times reported on a large Gallup poll that found that in almost every way, people get happier with age and experience a greater sense of well-being as they grow older…
Our magazines are covered with ways to remain youthful, our TV advertisements have all kinds of anti-aging beauty products and health stores sell supplements, all aiming to keep you young. Then there is the masses of plastic surgery and botox injections, the youth-oriented television shows and films… Then the elderly folks get all those phrases aimed at them stating that they are “over the hill” in some way… And regardless of our utterly youth-obsessed culture, it turns out that we actually feel better when we get old.
How do you like them apples? 😉
The results of the research, published originally online in mid May in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveal that people start out at age 18 feeling pretty good, but then decline steadily in their life experience until they hit 50. They measured such states as enjoyment, happiness, stress, worry, anger, and sadness, all of which hit a low point (or in the case of stress, worry, anger and sadness a high point) at around age 50 and then seem to steadily move towards a more positive state until age 85. There was some increase in sadness towards age 85 but it never reached the low of 50.
The poll did not draw any conclusions about why this trend occurs, that stuff is all up for debate and discussion (something which my Granddad loved). Furthermore, this trend did not seem to be effected by gender or some other measures that one might guess, such as having children at home, whether or not the person has a partner, or employment status.
There is a rumour, or perhaps a myth… That towards the latter part of his life Carl Jung refused to do therapy with anybody under the age of 50. Some suggest this was because he felt that anyone younger than that didn’t have their attention on what was really important, making a deep analysis impossible.
I have always susp[ected and theorised that as we get older we tend to realise how to focus our time on what really matters.
Importantly though, another thought in our quest for happiness may well be to stop schasing eternal youth, and embrace getting older because being old makes you happier… Not my words, the worlds of the Gallup poll.