Several books that I have recently read stated a relationship between ageing and happiness. The relationship is not what you expect, as older people almost always seem to be happier than their younger counterparts.
I attributed this initially to a better understanding of life, better forgiveness, being more comfortable with themselves and similar explanations, but a piece of evidence I came upon recently made me consider an additional explanation: What if it wasn’t that people got happier as they aged? What if the secret was that the happier people lived longer?
Studies of mental health and longevity*, consistently show that depression has been linked to higher incidents of cancer, that hostility and anger are linked to higher incidents of hypertension and cardiovascular disease, and that manic depression can result in alcoholism or suicide.
Studies on optimism, like the one conducted by De Sylva and Kern find that optimists were only half as likely as pessimists to require re-hospitalisation after a coronary artery bypass surgery.
A study by from The University of Texas School of Public Health revealed that a person’s subjective perception of well-being (SWB) reduced risks of all-cause mortality, natural-cause mortality, and cardiovascular mortality. SWB also predicted decreased unnatural-cause mortality from suicide, homicide, accidents, mental disorders, drug dependency, as well as alcohol-related liver diseases.
In fact people who do struggle more with life due to mental maladjustment tend to have higher disease rates for multiple medical conditions. Consider this chart:
So what can you do to be better mentally adjusted in this world?
1. Stop blaming yourself.
Whatever happened in the past, whether or not it was your fault, needs to stay in the past. Forgive yourself or acknowledge that it was not your fault. If you cannot forgive yourself for your trespasses, you will never be able to forgive others. It sure takes a lot of energy to play the blame game.
2. Have a strong network of support.
Family, friends, colleagues, online friends, classmates, fellow hobbyists are all potential candidates in a pool of people you can integrate with and rely on for an occasional chat or help with a difficult chore. Be kind to people, don’t withhold love or caring and they will be likely to reciprocate sooner rather than later.
3. Do not get attached.
Love people, be grateful for your circumstances, but do not start feeling entitled to what you have. You must be ready and willing to redefine yourself as you get older and to adapt to the circumstances that surround you.
4. Have a nurturing approach to the world.
Grow a plant, paint a tree, sing a song, repair a blanket, learn how to play a musical instrument. Focus on what you can create, not on what is unmendable or on what you can break.
5. Acknowledge it if you are unwell. Give yourself the time and tools you need to feel better again.