“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” – C.S. Lewis
Advertisers tell us that happiness comes from buying their anti-ageing products, and the media pretends it comes with fame and money. But what does the latest research show?
The Ten Keys to Happier Living are based on a review of the latest research from psychology and related fields. Everyone’s path to happiness is different, but the evidence suggests these 10 keys consistently tend to have a positive impact on people’s happiness and wellbeing, no matter our age.
1. Do things for others: Research suggests that helping other people fuels happiness. The act of giving strengthens connections with others and helps build a happier society for everyone.
2. Connect with people: Relating to others and forming strong social relationships has been shown to increase happiness, health and longevity. Not only does it provide a sense of belonging, but it also provides love, meaning, support and our feeling of self worth.
3. Take care of your body: Looking after your body, as much as you are able to, can instantly improve your mood as well as your health. This can include following a light exercise plan, having some assistance with meal planning and preparation, getting outside for fresh air and a quick walk, or simply getting a good night’s rest.
4. Live life mindfully: If you’re constantly dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, it’s likely that you aren’t living mindfully. It’s a hard skill to master, but research shows that when we stop and take notice of the little things that are happening right here and now, we can do wonders for our wellbeing.
5. Keep learning new things: Staying curious and engaged gives us a sense of accomplishment and helps boost our self-confidence. Apart from formal qualifications, we can share skills with friends, join a club, take up a new hobby and so much more. There are organisations like the University of the Third Age that encourage seniors to expand their interest in the world, increase their knowledge and pass on the experiences of life.
6. Have goals to look forward to: We all need goals to motivate and excite us. Research shows that setting goals gives our lives direction and brings a sense of accomplishment when we achieve them.
7. Find ways to bounce back: Times of stress, loss, failure and trauma can happen in our lives. This is especially true as we age, and begin to lose loved ones and parts of our independence. While in practice it’s not always easy, but finding and learning new ways to refine your resilience has been proven to assist in maintaining happiness.
8. Look for what’s good: Paying special attention to things that make you feel positive emotions – like joy, gratitude, contentment, inspiration and pride – can create an upward spiral and ultimately change our outlook on life. You may do this by reflecting on 3 things that you’re grateful for each day, or keeping a journal to jot down the moments in which you feel happy.
9. Be comfortable with who you are: As we age, it can be a bit too easy to dwell on our flaws and the things we don’t have anymore. Research shows that learning to accept ourselves, warts and all, can increase our enjoyment of life, our resilience and our wellbeing.
10. Be part of something bigger: Being connected to something bigger than ourselves, whether that means volunteering at a local not-for-profit, doing a job that makes a difference, or being a wonderful grandparent, can provide meaning and purpose and reduce stress, anxiety and depression.