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I did a quick search on Amazon. com which revealed that there are about 474K titles with the word ‘happy’ in them, while there are about half that many with the word ‘depression’ in them. This makes complete sense when you stop to think of how few people would be willing to be found on the stair-stepper at the gym, on the bus, or in the employee lounge reading a book whose title confesses to the world they have an interest in depression.
In 2008, the University of Chicago completed one of the most thorough studies on happiness ever done in the United States. The study examined happiness across age and racial groups and concluded that Americans grow happier as they grow older: As we age we grow more content, and although we have more health problems, we have far fewer difficulties overall. Not surprisingly, the baby boomer generation was the least happy of all groups surveyed (more on that in another post).
This study complements the research done by David Schnarch, Ph.d. in his 1997 book, Passionate Marriage. In marked contrast to cultural stereotypes, Schnarch claims that we do not reach our sexual prime until our forties, fifties, and sixties and that “cellulite and sexual potential are highly correlated.” No wonder people are happier when they get older!!
Given all this research, you may just want to take the perspective that things may be looking up even though your body parts are falling down. Maybe it’s not that you’re happier now than when your body parts were six inches higher; maybe it’s just that aging has made you more aware that you, alone, are responsible for your own happiness. This, in and of itself, may make you feel like you have more control over your life which will make you happier than if your happiness were reliant on someone or something else.
I, personally, find it ironic that the image of youth as the most glorious time of our lives is, ultimately, an inaccurate stereotype: That we spend our youth aiming for things that will never get us where we want to go.
All of this research serves as a reminder that things aren’t always as they look, that periodic reality checks with ourselves have far more value than societal stereotypes, and that aging beats the heck out of the alternative.
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