You can enter your 50s – and beyond – while enjoying extreme health and experiencing more energy and happiness than ever before. What follows are five unexpected ways you can raise your happiness levels after age 50.
Your Path to Deeper Happiness
After age 50, each of us becomes more keenly aware of our mortality – while simultaneously feeling overwhelmed by life’s persistent annoyances and chores.
Also, after 50, we tend to feel increased pressure to improve our retirement strategy.
There are solutions for the chaos of modern daily life in midlife and post-midlife.
Serenity is within reach.
Innate resources can be tapped!
Deep in our core, we all have a directional impulse to honor that which desires to come into being.
You have at least one unique gift – probably more than one. Something that no one can do quite as you can.
Realizing those potentials and upping happiness is important to your health.
1. Find Reasons to Feel Hopeful
Psychologist Carl Rogers described how, as a boy, his family kept a winter supply of potatoes in their basement, far removed from any direct light source.
These potatoes gave off white and spindly shoots, which were a far cry from the healthy green ones that could be expected under ideal springtime planting conditions.
However, even in the most trying of environments, these sprouts grew two and even three feet in length.
They stretched their way towards the possibility of light to the source that would help them fulfill their inner potential.
In much the same way, many of us struggle with less-than-optimal conditions to reach our own potential.
Overwhelmed, overstressed, and overtired – we forge through our day, trying to make spring out of winter.
However, unlike the potato, at the mercy of its circumstances, we can choose to create a fertile environment.
You can grow, change, and nurture your fruition – which will (and this is an important point) benefit not only yourself but those around you.
2. Remember Who You Are
What does it mean to be “self-actualized?”
Put simply, it means to realize one’s fullest potential – to take the seeds of your abilities and encourage their complete development.
Given the ideal circumstance, every seed will give birth to the wonders that lay dormant in its belly.
When you look at your life, do you already see the fullest fruition of what rests within you?
Or, rather, do you feel like you’ve lost your way?
Do things seem a bit numb or disconnected, as if you’re following a dream that sprang from someone else’s slumber?
This is autopilot.
At least 85% of people enter their 50s on autopilot.
The real kicker is that we can’t even remember when in our lives we switched to autopilot; it just seems to have sort of… happened.
Stay on autopilot long enough, and eventually, life will lose its luminous glow.
You want your life to have that magical, full-color quality that helps give you the moment-to-moment sensation of fully being alive.
Abraham Maslow observed that self-actualization is an ongoing process rather than an end-point that can actually be achieved.
He explained that there is no arriving at it as if it were a state of Nirvana; rather, it is a sustained potential that, when engaged, moves you further and deeper into your journey of knowing the wholeness of your potential.
Are you aligned with the directional force within?
Yes, even in this modern era, chock-full of illusion and distraction, you can be aligned with your truth.
3. Helm Your Own Happiness Journey
Maslow asserted that less than 15% of people are truly “self-actualized.”
So even though we each hold the potential for self-realization, many factors undermine our efforts to achieve our unfolding.
Though most have lived less-than-ideal lives and have often suffered hardships and loss, these factors are merely stumbling blocks compared to the shackles of our self-perception.
Maslow notes that each human being has two sets of competing forces within:
- One set clings to safety and defensiveness out of fear, tending to regress backward, hanging on to the past, afraid to grow…afraid to take chances and jeopardize what she already has.
- However, the other set impels her forward toward uniqueness and wholeness of Self, towards full functioning of all her capacities while simultaneously allowing her to be able to accept the totality of who she is at the deepest and most authentic level.
Many of us, though, cannot foster our self-actualization – in part because we are unable to move beyond an incomplete perception of who we are.
It’s understandable that with all of the uncertainty and unrest of existence, we would long to create something real and tangible – especially when it comes to how we imagine ourselves in the world.
We hold to our self-image as if it were a stable reality when it is more like a paper kite in a thunderstorm.
When we spend less time defending a truth that is likely to be incomplete – and decide instead to explore what lies beyond it – we create an opportunity for true change.
Part of the excitement of entering your 50s and beyond is that, at last, you can begin to accept yourself as the multifaceted gem that you are.
Start polishing the diamond so that it can shine.
4. Embrace Minimalism
Unrealized potential can be damaging to psychic and physical health alike.
Fulfillment is irreplaceable.
“Busyness” is an insufficient substitute for fulfillment.
- learn to see yourself within a culture of brain diversity – accept the idea that each of us sees the world through a different lens;
- your willingness to be introspective is essential if you’re to leverage your brain style and yield your fullest potential;
- learn in what specific ways your brain style differs from those around you.
- instead of getting frustrated that others don’t process information precisely as you do, become increasingly adept at recognizing other people’s brain styles and accommodating them when possible.
- Sometimes it’s helpful to stop working for a few minutes to look at how you’re working to determine if your habitual work style aligns with your greatest strengths and talents.
How can you leverage your unique brain style for maximum positive impact? It’s one of life’s great questions… or should be.
Once you know your brain style, you’ll also have a better idea of what’s truly important to you – that will make it easier to pare down to only those things and people that are helpful and enjoyable.
The better you know yourself, the fewer material things you will need in your life to bolster your sense of self.
The fewer possessions you own, the more time, energy, and money you will have to focus on things that truly improve your health and happiness.
Excess is overrated.
People who have too much stuff are weighed down.
Start setting healthy boundaries – only let those people, possessions, and experiences that enhance your energy into your life.
This will be hugely transformative in ways that you can’t even imagine.
As you undertake to live more minimally, crafting checklists can be helpful. Productivity systems help people to manage their time and energy:
- a checklist frees up mental space (you can visualize it as a process of removing the task from your mind and placing it in a receptacle: the checklist)
- a checklist frees up time for self-care. Self-care is not just about making time to hit the gym; self-care is also about being true to your calling, whatever it might be, for the sake of your psyche.
5. Move Boldly Toward Joy
The keys to thriving after the age of 50 are found in the ability:
- to accept the simple notion that the way you process information is organically different from the way some other people process information;
- to accept your brain-style difference as a natural, healthy part of living – and working – within a community.
Many of us have veered off our path – the path we were meant to walk.
Lost in an urban jungle of economic pressures, we suddenly realize that we’re meandering from distraction to distraction.
We stepped off the trail at some point and somehow lost track of it.
Joy Research Reveals What Makes People Happy
What does it mean to be happy?
What events in your own life would help you to be even happier than you are now?
As modern humans, we routinely make predictions about how happy future events will make us – a new car, a million dollars, a facelift.
We guess how events and possessions might increase our long-term feelings of satisfaction and inner peace.
Predictions about what it will be like to own these experiences and material items turn out to be incorrect.
The things we were so sure would make us happy people, do not.
Writer Elizabeth Kolbert explains that a whole range of activities that people tend to think will make them happy – such as getting a raise, moving to Hawaii, and having children – do not.
Of course, many of us already know this stuff intellectually, yet we keep forgetting.
Happiness is not often found where we might expect to find it.
The Paradox of Contentment
On one hand, it seems good to have goals – goals give life texture and provide direction.
On the other hand, this moment – this simple little moment – is, oddly, all we know we have, and the biggest opportunity lies within it.
When you think about it, the whole idea of postponing opportunity because you expect to be alive ten minutes from now and will have more energy and where-with-all then than you do now – well, it’s kind of comical in a way.
Kolbert startles us with revealing statistics and vignettes, such as lottery winners who take significantly less pleasure in daily activities (such as clothes-buying), than non-lottery winners.
The paradox of contentment is that creating a happy lifestyle sometimes means being able to plan ahead while also being in the moment.
The Happiness Inventory
A happiness inventory can show you how happy you are.
If you were to take a brutally honest look at the last couple of years, you might be surprised at those moments that stand out most.
Think back on these last two years – where is your contentment located?
Sometimes we answer questions like this with how we think we should answer… yes, the truth often alludes.
A few minutes of solitude can be very helpful in arriving at an authentic answer.
Give yourself a few moments alone to sit, close your eyes… and gradually calm yourself, looking inward:
- what physical sensations are you aware of?
- what parts of your body feel healthy and good?
- What parts of your body feel tight or uncomfortable?
Gradually bring your attention to your lungs, following the sound and sensation of your breath.
In this video, I discuss a fundamental principle of positive visualization: to focus your thoughts into imagining already having something you want – and experiencing the good feelings that come from that.
I’m paying attention to what’s inside my vibrational bubble. Because I do believe that whatever is happening inside the bubble – my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs – will determine what I experienced and witness on the OUTSIDE of the bubble.
So I want to be careful about what I create, because I believe myself to be a potent manifester. And I want a prosperous, joyful, healthy life.
And that’s what I wish for you, too.
When your mind starts to chatter, gently guide your attention back to the actual sensation of breathing.
After spending a few minutes in this relaxed state, ask yourself: “what are my favorite parts of a typical day?” …allow the answers to present themselves.
A happiness inventory may remind you of your own life’s simpler pleasures.
Think back to the last two years of your own life.
Heck, think back to just yesterday.
What made you truly happy?
Where are your moments of joy found?
There are times when a machete is needed to find the trail again.
Some of the most uncomfortable and painful moments arise from someone holding up a mirror and confronting us with reflections we would rather not claim as our own.
Oddly, seeing ourselves as we are (particularly the unsavory bits) can feel like a personal affront.
In these moments, it can help to remember that, though the process of self-revelation can be painful and uncomfortable, it can be a path to true freedom and increased happiness.
The task of peering within ourselves is made more challenging by our unhealthy impulse toward attaining:
- that fickle idea of perfection
- or (its opposite, yet equally unhealthy) desire to turn our dial to “disengage,” often because we’ve lost our path or have just given up.
Perfection and disengagement distract us from our inner vision.
They inhibit our ability to grow self-awareness – the primary key to unlocking the gift of true change.
It’s scary to admit that modern society often feels like Groundhog Day.
Every day we wake up, and the routine begins anew.
Today is a facsimile of yesterday.
Habits become facts of life, like breathing.
Autopilot controls this vehicle.
The record skips, and the same word repeats over and over again. This scenario is the death of passion and the birth of unrealized potential.
Sometimes society doesn’t support one’s unique gifts.
Gifts can be watered-down and exploited for the corporate bottom dollar.
Chances are slim that you’re spending your days cultivating your happiness.
Now, we all have to make a living – and our culture has made a series of choices over several millennia that have made “making a living” far more time-consuming than it once was.
The time it takes to make a living seems inextricably wed to the ever-increasing complexity of society.
As demands on one’s time continue to grow, one often loses sight of his or her potential.
Even with the noblest of intentions, life can get away from a person, and potential can so easily go unrealized.
True happiness arises from realizing our full potential and utilizing our unique talents in service to something bigger than just ourselves.
Identifying the talents that may lie dormant within you is a journey of discovery.
Because it’s a journey, your self-understanding may not happen instantly (“Eureka!”) but rather unfold over time through a series of small epiphanies.
How can you facilitate this process?
By doing the inner work: journal, meditate, craft your goals, and consult a counselor, therapist, or coach.
Practice setting healthy boundaries.
Re-examine what actually brings you joy.
Go for long walks alone, yet put yourself into bigger social situations where you can shake some new hands.
Be of service.
And start taking small steps toward getting your daily life better organized.
This is why making time for oneself is paramount.
In the film Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character, Phil, feels trapped by the broken record that his life has become.
Phil begins to manipulate the record like a DJ.
He knows everything that will happen, so he uses it to his advantage.
But it is not until Phil finds the happiness that the cycle breaks, and tomorrow arrives – a new day, a new beginning.
To stop that broken record from repeating the same word, we need to reclaim our unique potential and then set out to realize it.
- which people do you know who might find this article helpful or inspiring? Consider emailing this article to a friend.
Having a good second half of your life is about more than career or financial planning.
A good second half is about making decisions that allow you to become the fullest expression of your true self.
You can spend your time remaining in this life feeling happiness and making a positive difference.
Additional Sources on Happiness After Age 50:
On Joy – http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2010/03/22/100322crbo_books_kolbert#
On Calming Down – http://www.wikihow.com/Calm-Down
Abraham-Hicks: Ask And It Is Given – http://www.abraham-hicks.com/lawofattractionsource/askitisgiven_chapter_16.php