Laura Carsensen, a psychology professor and director of the Standford Center on Longevity, was the lead on a recent study that sought to answer questions asked by social scientists: Are American seniors who say they’re happy simply part of an era that predisposed them to good cheer? Or do most people – whether born and raised in boom times or busts – have it within themselves to reach their golden years with a smile?
The results will make you … smile. The results indicate that as we grow older, we tend to become more emotionally stable. That translates into longer, more productive lives that offer more benefits than problems, at least according to Professor Carstensen. She states:
“As people age, they’re more emotionally balanced and better able to solve highly emotional problems. We may be seeing a larger group of people who can get along with a greater number of people. They care more and are more compassionate about problems, and that may lead to a more stable world. Our findings suggest that it doesn’t matter when you were born. In general, people get happier as they get older.”
“As people get older, they’re more aware of mortality. So when they see or experience moments of wonderful things, that often comes with the realization that life is fragile and will come to an end. But that’s a good thing. It’s a signal of strong emotional health and balance.”
What this study tells me, aged 30-something, is that being aware of my own mortality now can add value and happiness to my everyday life, that I don’t have to grow old before happiness levels can improve, I merely need to remain mindful that life is fragile. That, of course, may be easier said than done, but it’s a goal worth striving for.
For scholarly folks seeking exact details of the study, it can be downloaded right here.