Check Your Vibes: 11 Reasons Aging Just Might Be The Key To Happiness
After assessing the lives and habits of 262,000 people, a recent study conducted by polling company CivicScience found that as far as statistics go, Americans are pretty damn happy. Shocker, right? If anecdotal evidence and oft-cited bits of pseudo-science are any indication, I’ve been under the impression that Americans are some of the least happy people on the planet, despite having some of the most comfortable living conditions in the world. Bleak, I know. We’re an anxious bunch! The even bigger kicker, though, was the study’s discovery that starting in one’s thirties, people become progressively happier than the general population as they age, with that joy peaking at age 65 and older. Who would’ve thought?
If the Western mindset has taught us anything, it’s that aging (at least, in the case of women) is just about the worst thing that can happen to us. The very process of continuing to breathe as copious amounts of time pass (the most basic definition of life, really) and the accompanying physical changes that come along the way are the most feared things on earth! We’re afraid of the very process of life! No wonder I figured Americans were depressed – and damn, am I glad to be proven wrong.
The study left us with some other interesting tidbits — we learned a person is six times more likely to say they’re happy than unhappy, those who can afford splurging on themselves are happier, people are happier unemployed than in jobs they hate, morning people are happier, and healthy people are much happier — but none jump out quite like the concept of aging into more joy. It certainly makes sense. In theory, we start to understand life better as we get older, which can lead to the kinds of choices and reactions that make us more content. One would hope gaining more wisdom and life experience makes you more aware of who you are and what you like, when to pick your battles and when to go with the flow, and what ‘s truly worth appreciating appreciating. Well, at least, these are the things I tell myself about the future, since I’m currently a confused twenty-something who walks around most of the time second-guessing herself/the meaning of life. They say “youth is wasted on the young” for a reason!
No matter what fear-mongering women’s magazines may tell us, aging does not have to be a wrinkle cream-fueled despair spiral into a world of self-hate and irrelevance. In fact, in many ways, it can be just the opposite. CivicScience cites “expanding our knowledge on consumers” (so, advertising) as one of the motivations of the study, so what does that mean for all the sexist anti-aging ads out there in the world? Does the scientific proof that aging actually doesn’t always suck mean we’ll have a media revolution that shames younger people instead? Probably not, but it sure provides good mental ammunition for the next time a magazine cover tells you about some chic new chemical to hide the wrinkles you’re apparently supposed to hate.
You’re probably just as peeved as I am by the negativity surrounding getting older, because buying into the media rhetoric about age is a surefire way to launch yourself into a premature existential crisis that you just may never crawl out of. To bring a smile to those of you who are either hating your wrinkle lines or haven’t yet reached the study’s magic get-happy age of 30 and are wondering if life ever gets any better, I rounded up some input from my coworkers on the very best aspects of having a few more years under your belt. Here’s what they had to say!
1. Not giving one single fuck. “You spend a lot of time in your twenties waking up, staring at the wall and wondering why the fuck your life is the way your life is and what you can do to change it. That’s normal. That’s fine. That, sadly is what your twenties are — figuring out your shit, figuring out what you like, and then doing whatever it is you can do to get it. The thing that I can say the most about being older is that the things you’re supposed to feel bad about — your hair turning grey, the fact that you can’t eat a pizza and a two liter of Coke for breakfast and not gain 20 lbs. — DON’T MATTER. You stop caring, and not in a ‘I’ve given up on life and I am no longer a functional human being, leave me to wither’ kind of way. You care about yourself, very much so, but you stop giving a shit about what other people think. That is the most liberating thing that can happen.”
2. Or maybe they’ve just gotten more refined. “I also have noticed that my fucks-giving has gotten more refined over my 20s. Like, I gave a lot of fucks for a while, then I gave zero fucks; now I give some fucks, but I give fucks intentionally, because I know what I value, what my priorities are, who I want to be, and what’s reasonable to expect of myself (more or less).”
3. Life is hopefully more comfortable financially. “I have more fucking money. I’m not saying this is 100 percent true for everyone as they get older, and certainly if you have a family your expenses have probably increased too. But as I’ve gotten older and grown in my career, I’ve been able to put more money in my bank account and because I don’t have major responsibilities (yet, at least) like children or a mortgage, I don’t feel guilty about occasionally splurging. It’s awesome to be able to, on occasion, buy that expensive THING I could only previously drool over, or go on vacations and not have to stay in bed bug ridden hostels.”
4. And you’re hopefully smarter about how you spend those dollars. “Financial security and not being a total idiot is the best perk of age.”
5. You’re clearer about what you want out of a relationship. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also developed a healthier attitude towards romantic and sexual relationships. I’ve learned what it is I really want in a long-term partner and have come to accept that finding a person who meets that criteria and ALSO feels the same towards me is kind of outside my control. I’ve also learned to value my other, non-romantic relationships as just as fulfilling at least emotionally, and have mostly learned how to enjoy and be in the moment in those romantic/sexual relationships that I know have a shelf-life because they lack long term compatibility.”
6. Finding appreciation for the way your body changes. “It’s super-cool to watch the structure of your body change over your 20s. I am less rounded and soft than I used to be, which I like a lot. I think that happens for most people – it’s just the process of looking less kid-like.”
7. Sex gets better. “I have much much much much much much much better sex now than I ever did in my 20s. First of all, I am at my sexual peak, I guess, and that’s great, plus I’m just more open-minded and down to experiment and have stopped giving a fuck about various hangups that kind of plagued me when I was younger.”
8. You start to chill out, existentially at least. “I will say that it is particularly great to get past the age of 22-23, those first few post-college years for many people. It seems like everyone I know – myself included – gets really, really stressed out during that period about what you’re supposed to be doing with your life, and not just in terms of a career, but existentially (i.e. “WHY AM I EVEN HERE WHAT IS LIFE WHY DO THINGS MATTER”). If you keep your head up and keep working hard, by 24 or 25, you’ll be rolling with life way, way better.”
9. You know what looks and feels good. “I also have been pleased to develop something of a personal style that keeps getting dressed and ready simple for me.”
10. And you stop taking as many stupid risks. “Now that I’m not a teenager, I don’t shoplift so much.”
What about you? What’s been great about getting older? What advice do you have to readers who fear aging? Remember, science says the longer we live, the better it gets!