Do you want to know the seven habits that lead to happiness in old age? Continue reading if you want to know the answer. Everyone, regardless of their age, state of health, or current circumstances, is doing their absolute best to bring more happiness into their lives.
This is true regardless of whether or not they have achieved their goals. Finding contentment in one's golden years is widely regarded as the pinnacle of human achievement, and doing so calls for a significant investment of time and energy.
As people get older, they typically fall into one of two categories: those who are significantly happier, and those who are significantly less happy. Those who enter old age in a position of financial security are less likely to experience unhappiness than those who are having difficulty meeting their financial obligations.
For one's happiness to be preserved into old age, various things must be adhered to. In this article, we take a look at seven practices that, in old age, will lead to happiness.
Just try to picture yourself ten years from now. Will you be happier in the future than you are right now, or will you be less happy? The vast majority of people hold the view that they will be happier.
An old man hugging his wife
But when you ask them about their forecast for the world in the next half-century, it sounds a lot less optimistic. For the majority of them, the idea of being in their late 70s does not sound particularly appealing.
Around the age of 50 is typically when people experience their lowest levels of happiness, following a general downward trend throughout young adulthood and middle age. After that, it begins to climb steadily once more until it reaches the middle of one's 60s.
Then a peculiar occurrence takes place. As people get older, they tend to fall into one of two categories: those who become significantly happier, and those who become significantly less happy.
At roughly the same time in their lives, many people come to the conclusion that it was crucial for them to make prudent choices regarding their finances in their younger years. People who are able to provide for themselves in a comfortable manner are more likely to have made preparations in advance and saved money, whereas a significant number of people are unable to do so.
Every one of us has something that we put our energy into cultivating when we were younger and that now pays off for us in our golden years. And just as financial planners encourage their clients to engage in certain behaviors, such as making saving money a habit or pausing to reconsider the purchase of a boat, we can all teach ourselves to do some very specific things at any age to make our later years significantly more enjoyable.
In 1938, Harvard Medical School researchers had a brilliant idea: they would enroll a group of Harvard students and follow them from childhood to adulthood. Researchers polled participants every year or two about their lifestyles, habits, relationships, work, and happiness.
The study has since expanded to include people other than Harvard men, and its findings have been updated on a regular basis for more than 80 years.
Those findings are a gold mine (and I've mentioned them several times in this column): When you look at how people lived, loved, and worked in their 20s and 30s, you can see how their lives progressed over the next several decades. And from this happiness crystal ball, you can learn how to invest in your own future well-being.
As participants in the Harvard Study of Adult Development aged, researchers classified them in terms of happiness and health. The population is highly variable, but two distinct groups emerge at the extremes.
The "happy-well" are those who have good physical health as well as good mental health and a high level of life satisfaction. On the other end of the spectrum are the "sad-sick," who have poor physical, mental, and life satisfaction.
The happy-well senior citizens had accumulated certain resources and habits in their Happiness 401(k)s when they were younger. Some of these are difficult for each of us to control, such as generational wealth: having a happy childhood, descended from long-lived ancestors, and avoiding clinical depression.
Some, however, are under our control to varying degrees, and they can teach us a lot about how to plan for late-life happiness.
Using data from the Harvard study, two researchers demonstrated in 2001 that we can exert direct control over seven major investment decisions: smoking, drinking, body weight, exercise, emotional resilience, education, and relationships. Here's what you can do about each of them right now to ensure that your accounts are as full as possible in your later years:
- Don't smoke, or if you do, quit right away. You may not succeed on your first attempt, but the sooner you begin the process, the more smoke-free years you will have to invest in your happiness account.
- Keep an eye on what you're drinking. The Harvard study found that alcohol abuse is strongly associated with smoking, but plenty of other research shows that it is one of the most powerful predictors of ending up sad-sick on its own. Get help right away if you have any signs of a drinking problem in your life. If your family has a drinking problem, don't take any chances: keep that switch turned off. Although abstaining from alcohol can be difficult, you will never be sorry.
- Keep a healthy body weight. Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables with moderate serving sizes, but avoid yo-yo diets or extreme restrictions that you can't keep up with in the long run.
- Make movement a priority in your life by making time for it every day and sticking to it. Walking every day is arguably the single most effective and time-tested way to accomplish this.
- Now is the time to practice your coping mechanisms. The sooner you learn healthy coping mechanisms for life's inevitable ups and downs, the better prepared you'll be if bad luck strikes in your 80s. This entails working consciously to avoid excessive rumination, unhealthy emotional reactions, or avoidance behavior, possibly with the help of spiritual practices or even therapy.
- Continue to learn. More education results in a more active mind in old age, which translates to a longer, happier life. That does not imply that you must attend Harvard; rather, you must engage in lifelong, purposeful learning. For example, reading serious nonfiction as part of a routine can help you learn more about new subjects.
- Put in the effort now to cultivate stable, long-term relationships. Most people consider this to be a stable marriage, but other relationships with family, friends, and partners can also fall into this category. The goal is to find people with whom you can grow and on whom you can rely no matter what happens.
Concentrate on your abilities. Happier older adults focus on what they can do and find rewarding rather than any decline in abilities.
- 1 — Gratitude.
- 2 — Be Present.
- 3 — Manage Time Effectively.
- 4 — Set SMARTER Goals.
- 5 — Embody an Empowering Morning Routine.
- 6 — Tackle the MITs.
- 7 — Focus on Health and Wellbeing.
- Don't overwork yourself
- Spend more time with your family
- Try to settle down in a place close to where you work
- Help others by doing volunteer work
- Keep in touch with your friends
- Practice gratitude
- Make small talk
- Exercise often
Following the seven steps as best you can is the most reliable way to ascend to that upper branch of happiness. Today, take an inventory of your habits and behaviors to see where you need to invest a little more time, energy, or money to get things moving in the right direction.