GETTING OLDER MAY BE THE SECRET TO HAPPINESS

It may seem illogical, but in order to be truly happy, you need to age. The years between 60 and 80 are the time when the majority of people are the most joyful, this according to a recent survey conducted for bank HSBC.

So how do all of these people in their 60s and 70s find the key to happiness? It starts with obvious factors such as good health and a respectable standard of living; but even these don't make as large a contribution to one's happiness as you might think. In fact, there aren't really any external factors that play a part in making people happy. Happiness is a natural outcome of aging that originates from within. That's because the frequency with which negative feelings occur actually declines as you advance in years; and when they do happen, they don't last as long as when you are younger.

Of course, the level of happiness you achieve varies according to the individual. Your genetic makeup influences how happy you will be, as does your parents' happiness. Your health can influence how content you are, too. People who are severely ill aren't as happy as those in excellent health. But that's true at all ages. The odd thing is that when researchers compared the morale of frail older adults to younger adults, the older adults beat the youngsters in the happiness department hands down, in spite of their infirmity.

The reason older adults can remain happy is probably related to their desire to make the most of the time they have left. Knowing that the clock is ticking makes people figure out the things that make them angry, and then either learn how to avoid them, or what they can do to cope.

Researchers also noted that brain function changes with aging. Brain imaging studies found that older peoples' brains react less strongly, and for a shorter period of time, to negative feelings. They concluded that one's improved outlook on life is probably a combination of changes in perspective, and changes to the amygdalae, a part of the brain that processes emotion.

Another change that comes with age is less emphasis on how much money one has. Money only seems to have any real importance for those who are struggling to meet their every day expenses. People that have a steady stream of income for life, no matter how small, learn to adjust to their new financial circumstances and find contentment.

Finally, continuing to engage in activities that you feel are important will add to your happiness. These activities need to be things that make a contribution like taking care of a grandchild, doing volunteer work, or working in a second career. Getting involved is life enhancing, and a little appreciation of life's simple pleasures goes a long way on the road to happiness.

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