4 Steps To Help You Overcome Your Mid-Life Happiness Slump

Every time I wish my 96-year-old Uncle to have a fabulous day, he answers enthusiastically with, "every day is a great day." Attitude is a major factor in one's outlook on life, but economic and behavioral research reveal that as we age we may actually become happier. In fact, happiness may increase in the later years, regardless of money, relationships, employment status, or children.

According to an expansive study led by Andrew Oswald of the University of Warwick, personal well-being was examined in over 50 countries reflecting that life cycles follow a distinctive U-shape, regardless of cultural influences.

In youth, contentment and mental health are high, until about age 30. In midlife, happiness falls to the lowest point—bottoming out at around age 46—only to rebound upward again in the 60s. The twilight years may be the best that are yet to come. It seems rhythms to happiness may be built-in to our biology, affecting both men and women. Additional research found similar U-shaped life patterns in chimpanzees and orangutans.

Older Is Much, MUCH Better

As we age, especially beyond middle age, there's a tendency for feelings of contentment to increase. Experience may be partly responsible in allowing older adults to recognize what's truly of value and deeply important to well-being. In earlier years, focus may be more directed to goals and accomplishments, and making money and managing family.

Beyond the 50s, adults are better equipped to deal with change, loss, and letting go of disappointment or unrealized goals and aspirations. Acceptance becomes more prevalent and opportunities to enjoy good health and friendships are more appreciated.

Mature adults may more naturally seek friends who are uplifting and support their lifestyle. Furthermore, it’s possible that biologically, as the brain ages, it becomes more wired to respond positively to moments and reject negativity.

Overcoming the Mid-Life Lows

Here are few tips to navigate the slump of the 40s and 50s:

  1. Notice feelings and emotions but don't let them control decisions. Challenges may need to be addressed but they may not necessarily require escaping a marriage, job, or buying a hot sports car. Identify a friend to talk to or find a professional—pastor, rabbi, mental health expert, physician—to discuss options. (Guys take note: your local bartender or Bambi at the strip club are not your best choices for counseling.)
  2. Make time for exercise. It's important to keep the body fit and the mind functioning optimally to improve decision-making. Fitness is necessary and can reduce, and even eliminate, depression.
  3. Get enough sleep. Adults typically require 7 to 8 hours of quality rest. If deprived, both mind and body are compromised, and memory and good judgment suffer.
  4. Forget the past. It's old news. Pay attention to this moment and give thanks for all that you have. Is there food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head, and a place to sleep? If so, you're richer than 75% of this world. Be grateful for all the people and things that are present in your life. Focus on the positive.

Ultimately, we all want to be happy, but how ironic that aging may be the secret potion we seek. It may be encouraging to know that as we muddle through mid-life there's a pot of golden contentment at the end of the rainbow. As we get older, along with wisdom, we potentially cultivate positive viewpoints and more upbeat dispositions. Are we there yet?

Peggy Sealfon is a personal development coach and author of the forthcoming book Escape from Anxiety—Supercharge Your Life with Powerful Strategies from A to Z. Contact her at Feeling unsettled and anxious? Try her FREE audio to reduce stress and handle your challenge more effortlessly.