Those of us on the Central Coast already live in one of the happiest places on earth. Now it seems that growing old contributes to our sense of well-being.
A study published in the Aug. 24, 2016 issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry looked at the responses of 1,546 people ages 21 to 99 via randomized telephone calls. As predicted, researchers found that increasing years were accompanied by cognitive and physical decline. Surprisingly, though, they were also associated with higher levels of satisfaction and happiness, and lower levels of anxiety, depression and stress. In fact, the older the participants, the better their mental health.
The reasons for the change aren’t clear.
But lead author Dr. Dilip V. Jeste, professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, has a theory: “Brain studies show that the amygdala in older people responds less to stressful or negative images than in a younger person.” As a result, seniors become wiser. They’re better decision makers. They gain increased control of their emotions. They’re more focused on helping others rather than themselves. Plus, they develop greater empathy and compassion.
Of course, no one is happy all the time. Life brings challenges and sorrows that constantly test our resolve. Yet mounting years seem to equip us to weather the inevitable curve balls. And that’s good news for aging boomers and Gen Xers alike.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit lindalewisgriffith.com.
How happy are you?
Take the Satisfaction with Life Scale, created by Ed Diener, Robert A. Emmons, Randy J. Larsen and Sharon Griffin:
Rate the following 5 statements on a scale of 1-7: 7-strongly agree
4-neither agree nor disagree
___ In most ways my life is close to my ideal.
___The conditions of my life are excellent.
___I am satisfied with my life.
___So far I have gotten the important things I want in life.
___If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing.
8 ways to boost happiness:
▪ Find joy in the mundane. Explore the nooks and crannies of your day to discover unexpected sources of delight.
▪ Spend time with friends. Friends make you laugh, share your interests and think you’re terrific.
▪ Help others. Donate to your favorite charity or assist a neighbor with dementia. You’ll find a vital role for your skills and your time.
▪ Learn something new. You’ll not only boost brain power, you’ll become more engaged in life.
▪ Forgive yourself and others. Release yourself of past transgressions. Say “I’m sorry” to those you have wronged. Accept others’ apologies quickly and completely.
▪ Go outdoors. Both sunshine and Nature enhance your mood.
▪ Adopt a pet. Pets lower your blood pressure and offer unconditional love.
▪ Practice gratitude. You are truly blessed. Give thanks daily for all that you have.