Older adults seem to have the secret. Use their strategies to secure a smile-filled future.
You can’t buy happiness, but there’s one way to boost it: Just wait a few years. Our sense of well-being improves as we age, according to researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. People who participated in their study “reported that they felt better about themselves and their lives year upon year, decade after decade,” says Dilip Jeste, MD, director of the Center on Healthy Aging at UCSD.
The happiness-longevity link appears to work both ways, too, with a happy outlook leading to a longer life span. And for optimists, here’s one more thing to smile about: Your sunny outlook may be cutting your heart disease risk in half.
Older adults who describe themselves as happy attribute their contentment to other factors as well. Here’s what research shows and how you can use it to boost your happiness.
Reach out to loved ones
Love and happiness, not surprisingly, go arm in arm. Experts call our connections to others “social capital,” and it’s long been known to offer health benefits. Retirement or relocating can shrink your social circle, so it’s important to actively look for new friends. To find people who like what you do, attend favorite events like concerts or craft shows, even if you go alone. Join a gym or church to meet like-minded people. Accept and extend invitations. Or, get a furry people-magnet (or borrow a friend’s). Walking a dog is an easy way to meet other animal lovers.
Share your time and talents
Helping others gives us a sense of purpose and reminds us of all that we have to offer. Dedicate time to a cause you support. Help others in your community by making or delivering meals to shut-ins, for example. Think about the interests you’ve had throughout your life. Did you often visit libraries, museums, or historical societies? Join their volunteer group. See if a local school needs tutors or has a mentorship program.
We all know regular exercise helps us maintain a healthy weight, stay strong and flexible, and avoid heart disease. Those are all good results that can make us feel good. But wait, that’s not all! Physical activity is also a mood booster. Exercise increases the production of chemicals in the brain that improve the way we feel. Getting physical is also a proven stress buster. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week. Take it ten minutes at a time if that works best for you.
Reminisce about the good old days
Recalling good times and happy events from your life is a key to happiness! You can share your stories in a journal or on a computer, but it’s even better to do so face-to-face. If nothing comes to mind right away, use these topics to get your thoughts flowing: career successes, experiences with your children or your parents, vacations, life events like weddings and the birth of grandkids, and simple moments like a great meal.
Become tech savvy
Adults who use the internet are more satisfied with their lives, according to new research. This may be especially true for older adults who use it to email and chat with family and friends, search for health information, and shop online. Social media isn’t guaranteed to make you happy, but it does provide a convenient way to reconnect with old friends, or even make new ones. Many older adults use services like Facebook to stay in touch with family. Give your brain a good workout by taking a class online to learn a language or a new skill like coding. And, you know what they say about laughter being the best medicine. Count on the internet for a good laugh, whether it’s the latest crazy cat video or an old Monty Python sketch.