Does happiness and ageing go together? Is everyone who is ageing – happy? Most developed countries have accepted the age of 65 years as getting older or “elderly”. If you, like me “just” over 65 years old you are a senior, an older person or elderly! Whatever your age, everyone is growing older at the same daily rate. It is just that the person who is 20 years younger than me will never catch up to me. I like it that way – giving all the younger people the challenge of catching up! Is someone 20 years younger than me, happier than me? What does make us happy as we age?
The happy hour is popular with seniors, those over 65 years old. I have heard from friends who are part of the “grey nomad” caravanners that happy hour in the park is the place to be. That is, late in the day, around dusk, when people gather together and enjoy a drink. One of the problems with “happy hour” is that after about 45 minutes a sense of timing is lost, and happy hour can turn into “happy hours”!
But the “grey nomads” and other non-caravanning seniors don’t have happy hour all to themselves it is also popular with the millennials – those aged between 22 – 37 years. The millennials without children or very well-behaved children enjoy a more relaxed happy hour. This gives the millennial parents some winding down time after a demanding day at work. Every parent deserves at least one “happy hour” a day. However, for some parents they will have to wait until the children are in bed and asleep. But not so for the “grey nomads” and the “senior set” (older people at home) who don’t have to worry about the patter of little feet! Yet, is having a “happy hour” everyday the conclusive answer to a “happy” life as we age? If not, what else will make us happy?
Can a partner make us happy?
Some people believe that having a partner will make them happy. As most of us know having a partner is not the solution to a happy life. Relationships are challenging. They need work and they need each person to give 100%. We cannot be defined by our partner, that is, how happy they are and their mood. But the fact is we are emotional beings and another’s reaction or non-reaction to us can affect our mood, can affect our emotions, how we feel about ourselves and others. Even the most positive person in the world will struggle maintaining a positive equilibrium if they live with a negative person. This type of person is very toxic in a relationship. However, we can’t fix the other person, all we can do is fix ourselves – get our happiness thermostat at the right level.
Does money make us happy?
Last Thursday night’s powerball lottery was won by two entries – two people. That is $50 million each. If these people were not happy two days ago are they happy now? The answer depends on their attitude to their new-found wealth. Wealth and happiness are not necessarily mutually exclusive. You can be wealthy and happy; wealthy and unhappy; poor and happy; and poor and unhappy. If I asked the question which one you would choose? Maybe – wealthy and happy? However, wealth can mean different things to different people. Wealth can mean having a great relationship and people in our lives that accept and love us (warts and all). If a little money is thrown in so that there is no worry about paying the bills, enough money to enjoy holiday retreats, perhaps even enough money to have others do all the mundane jobs at home, even better! But still, if we are wealthy enough, how do we keep happy?
Health and happiness
If we are happy we are more likely to be healthy. Physical and emotional illnesses can rob us of happiness. Awareness of our emotions when we experience an illness is the first step to maintaining our happiness. If I am aware of my feelings, thoughts and understand my behaviour than I am more likely to maintain my emotional health – keep my happy thermostat at the right level. If an unwanted illness arrives then sadness and depression can follow. Depression is common among older Australians. Therefore, it is a good idea to find ways to keep track of our emotional health.
If we notice more times of sadness and depression, then it could be time to get professional help to bring back the joy into our lives. Sometimes sad is okay when someone is going through a time of “grief and loss”. Getting support at times like this to work through sadness and loss will help.
I was talking to a neighbour this week who used to live and work on the land. He spoke of the impact of the drought on farmer’s emotional health. He experienced three of his neighbours commit suicide because of another drought years ago. Ensuring people get the right support at the right time is the key to a better future. Beyondblue is one organisation who is there for older people and others with depression and anxiety.
The Happiness Thermostat
What can we do to keep our happiness thermostat at the right level? This is a subject I am looking into this coming week. Identifying ways, we can keep our happiness thermostat at the right level sounds good to me!