Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Who's happiest?

Last week I read an interesting column by David Brooks in The New York Times titled "Why Elders Smile." Brooks talked about research in which people of different ages assessed their well being. Those in their 20s see themselves as happy. Then there's a decline by middle age, no doubt due to stresses of career and family.

And here's the fascinating piece of that research: People aged 82 to 85 rate themselves the highest on the happiness scale. Brooks cites psychologists as saying that this is due to several factors including a more relaxed attitude as people lose the anxiety of earlier years, gaining more pleasure from ordinary activities. Brooks says he wants to think that this is because people get better at handling life's challenges.

I am intrigued by this research and by Brooks' thoughts. I suspect there are many reasons that people in their 80s are happier, but I wonder whether shedding might be one of them. I often write about the importance of letting go as we age—letting go of worry, letting go of anger and resentments, letting go of limiting beliefs, letting go of perfectionism, letting go of unrealistic expectations. There's just a lot to shed since we collect a lot of baggage as we go through life.

I don't know about you, but I want to travel lighter. Hmmm, what can I shed next?

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