If you’re feeling a bit miz in your 50s just hang in there for another decade. That’s when your spirits will soar higher than at any time since your early 20s.
That may sound like a thumb-sucked horoscope but it’s actually the finding of a new study on happiness and aging. It pinpoints 23 and 69 as the two ages when people are happiest, and this seems to hold true regardless of nationality or class.
Study author Dr. Hannes Schwandt is a proponent of the U-shaped theory of happiness and aging, which he describes as “driven by unmet aspirations which are painfully felt in midlife but beneficially abandoned later in life”.
The Princeton University professor advises that, “People in their fifties could learn a little from the elderly, who generally feel less regret.”
People of any age could learn a little from French chanteuse Edith Piaf. A tragic figure who had little experience of happiness or aging herself, she offered her view on combining the two in her famous ballad “Non, je ne regrette rien”, French for “No, I regret nothing”.
Violations of Piaf’s motto seem to occur most in late middle age, while embracing the No Regrets philosophy apparently peaks as we settle into old age. This vindicates the findings of a recent Australian study that happiness in older people is strongly linked to accepting what you cannot change.
Appearing in what else but the Journal of Happiness Studies, these findings pinpoint the nadir of unhappiness at 46. The good news, according to Deakin University researchers, is that from that age onwards happiness steadily increases.
These revelations about the secrets of staying happy as you age are not exactly new. Remember that slogan from our carefree youth to “go with the flow”? And we don’t need to be graduates of 12-step programs to have heard the advice of American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
I could mention the revival of interest in Neibuhr’s writings sparked by his fan US President Obama, who deployed this utilitarian philosophy of sacrificing a few to protect many to justify his drone warfare. But hey, My New Old Self was just starting to feel an upward mood swing so why go there? I get a smile on my face when I realise that it won’t be too long before I reach the pinnacle of happiness, so why should I ruin the mood?