“When I…[insert experience here], I’ll be happy.” How do you fill in the blank?
As a young adult, you may have believed something in the future would bring happiness: moving out of the dorm, getting a better job, getting married, making more money, or some other aspirational goal. As time goes on, simple, present-moment pleasures bring happiness more often than striving for big goals. Playing Monopoly with your granddaughter brings joy. A walk in nature soothes the soul. Relaxing with a good book is a rare treat.
A study published in Psychology and Aging confirms that perspectives change as adults age. The study suggests that younger adults focus more on optimizing performance, while older adults focus on counteracting loss.
Age and Wisdom Redefine Happiness
The shift in motivation makes sense. Over time, you experience numerous joys and hardships. The homes get bigger and smaller. Relationships blossom, marriages end. Careers become more and less demanding.
Those experiences bring wisdom. You learn it’s not the job itself that brings happiness, but what we contribute to the team, to the company, and to the community at large. It’s not the wedding (as nice as they are), but the way you and your partner love and support each other even on a run-of-the-mill Wednesday morning.
All those joys and sorrows, wins and losses, culminate into some of our happiest years yet. Jonathan Rauch writes in his book “The Happiness Curve” that happiness peaks in childhood, dips in middle age, and peaks again later in life. From experience, we realize whatever challenge gets thrown our way, we’ll survive and emerge stronger.
When you look back, what experiences brought you the most happiness?
Here, Spectrum community members share some of the happiest highlights of their lives:
Getting married to my beautiful, intelligent, loving wife, Clare and the mother to our 7 children. –Bill H., The Homestead at Hickory View Retirement Community
We’ve been making plarn mats for a year now and it has been the best time. The group meets every Monday to turn used plastic bags into mats for the homeless. It feels good to help the environment and the homeless at the same time. We’re doing a great thing here. –Anne B., Shawnee Hills Senior Living
… In my whole life? I would need to think on that for a week and after I finally settled on something it would change again. It’s been a great life, and I’ve done a lot of amazing things. I’d say it’s impossible to fully settle on anything! –Irene S., Dougherty Ferry Assisted Living & Memory Care
The birth of my 4 children and being able to watch them grow up. –Jean W., The Homestead at Hickory View Retirement Community
The thing that made me the happiest was the day I married my best friend. I grew up in a home with an abusive father and the day I met Ray changed my life. In Ray, I met a man that showed me how a father and a husband was supposed to act. He was my light! –Trudy P., Dougherty Ferry Assisted Living & Memory Care
I’ve really enjoyed the monthly ‘Taste Of…’ special dinners where we highlight the countries of the world. It’s a chance for us to try different cuisine and I love the music and entertainment from the various cultures. We also watch travelogues during the weeks leading up to them in the movie theater, and it’s interesting to learn about the different customs from around the world. –Judy G., Shawnee Hills Senior Living
The day I got married and when my children were born. I remember fun summer vacations with the family and then when my children got married and my grandchildren. I also loved my job at the library. –Anita S., The Homestead at Hickory View Retirement Community