Are Baby Boomers Happier Than Their Kids?

boomers and kidsWhen you ask people if they’re happy, the results are usually the same – the older you get, the happier you are.

It’s not a straight-line progression. Generally, happiness increases in young adults until about age 30, then drifts downward to the mid-50s, where it begins to rise again. Often there is a decline in the final years, but it seldom dips to previous levels. These charts appear across class and ethnic lines. Baby boomers are right at the big cusp or just over it.

Why? Most researchers on the subject attribute the rise in happiness to a change in attitudes about expectations. It could be a sense of accomplishment or a sensible re-evaluation of life goals. Midlife brings experience, which cultivates wisdom, perspective and better emotional control.

Don’t regard expectations as purely material or financial – they include family and friends as much if not more.

Can you actually train yourself to be more happy at any age?

Well-known heart specialist and author Dr. Mehmet Oz has some simple suggestions, all of which are proactive, willful activities. This is not the elusive “positive thinking.” These are things you can do.

  • Social connection. This involves talking, hugging, lovemaking or just hanging out with friends. Facebook is connection but it’s cyber and not as effective as old fashioned eye to eye/skin to skin contact.
  • Physical activity. You don’t have to push yourself to an endorfin high. Just playing a round of tennis or going for a walk tends to cheer people up and reduce stress. Catching your breath after a racquetball game will take your mind off everything.
  • The great outdoors. This does not include shopping, the traditional antidote to the blues. There is something invigorating about forests, parks and beaches. Bring your dog.
  • Massage your altruism. Even cynics can participate. Helping others from the kindness of your heart makes you feel good. Do it for yourself.

What about “positive thinking?” Most shrug when they hear this - a case of “easier said than done.” How can you train your brain? Give me some practical advice, you say.

We have the capacity to rewire our brains, regardless of age. What we focus on is actually reinforced physiologically.

It’s hard to prevent negative or disrupting events and thoughts from entering consciousness, but there is a space between boomers and kidsstimulus and response where our will power can intervene.

Dr. Victor Frankl suggests that we learn to recognize this opportunity and seize it. Instead of going into a “fix it” mode, which activates our brain to urgency/problem solving and actually compounds the anxiety, cultivate an acceptance approach, learning to live with the discomfort and watch it pass. It will if you will. Over time, the triggers should have less and less effect.

For us A-type personalities, this doesn’t mean resignation in the face of adversity, only a slow-down pace that could cool your anxiety engines and provide better perspective.

Terry Hamburg writes the Baby Boomer Daily about the exciting and revolutionary baby boomer years.

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