Don’t waste your late thirties and early forties

Both Dr. Helen and Jon Barlow blogged about this study.

Whether they are mourning the passing of their prime or struggling to cope with the demands of a job and young family, those aged 35-44 invariably hit a mid-life crisis when their happiness level plunges lower than at any other age, according to a study for the Government.

It makes them the least satisfied members of society, scoring well below teenagers, the elderly – and women of all ages.

Researchers found that it takes men until they reach the age of 65 to start enjoying life as much as they did in their late-teens and early-20s.

Actually, if we could trust this interpretation, I think we would see a way to help men 35-44 be happier.  Telling them that they will eventually “get over it” and be much happier in a couple of decades would be quite helpful I think.

But from what I see, as far as we know, the sixty-five-year-olds might always have been happy.  How can we be sure this is a report on the way all males go through life and not a report on specific generations?

Regardless, how do we deal with the problem.

Preparation: Don’t allow yourself to think of youth as the happiest time.
One thing I think doesn’t help is the saying I’ve heard other people say to college students (not my parents, thankfully): “Enjoy yourself!  These are the best years of your life.”  That is, if you think of it, a horribly depressing view that dooms you to pine for your college years forever.

Duration: most bad times can be made worse by wallowing in misery.

There are people you meet who have suffered such loss that all you can do is keep quiet and weep with them.  But for the vast majority of us, we have plenty of blessings, but because a particular one was taken away or never given to us, we decide to ignore everything else and concentrate on mourning for what we don’t have.  As an initial response this may be appropriate, but why let what you can’t have take away what you do have?  Why not focus on the blessings that remain and enjoy them?

I used to think that “happiness is a choice.”  But that is simplistic.  Your emotions are reactions to reality–or they should be.  Happiness is hallucinatory if it is merely volitional.  But for most people, especially for contemporary Americans, there is some reason to be happy, and the choice is whether or not to focus on that reason.

2 thoughts on “Don’t waste your late thirties and early forties

  1. Jim

    I’d take my late thirties and early forties over my late teens and early twenties any day of the week. I’m much happier now than I was at that point, and as far as I can judge, it just keeps getting better.


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