We joke that the years before the reality of work and bills are the height of happiness. Remember when getting mail was fun and not a reminder to pay your Internet bill? And having a job sounded glamorous and didn't involve long hours at the office? According to a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, it might carry some weight. Researchers reviewed data from 132 countries and found a happiness curve. Happiness falls after the age of 18, reaching its lowest point in the late 40s.
The data shows that for most people the year when they feel unhappiest is 47. Many reported feeling anxious, depressed, lonely, lacking self-confidence, and feeling under strain during this time of life—a recipe for the classic "midlife crisis" stereotype. There are very real reasons some feel this way: some are under financial stress or perhaps aren't where they thought they would be at this stage of their lives.
But 47 is actually a magic year, one that should be celebrated, according to author of The Sunny Side Up, Lauren Cook, MMFT.
Just a few reasons to find happiness in life during your late 40s, according to a marriage and family therapist
1. You know what you value
"By the time you've reached 47, chances are likely that you know what brings you meaning in your life," says Cook. "That sense of aimless wondering that you can see in the 20s and 30s has usually dwindled and you have a much stronger sense of what to prioritize in your life." Of course, it's never too late to change directions.
2. You have your people
By the age of 47, chances are you can name at least a few people who have proved themselves to be your rocks, whether it's a partner or group of friends. "By this point in life, you've likely learned that some relationships can weather just about any storm and still stick around," she says.
3. You appreciate your body
Sure, you may have been more fit in your 20s—or, hey, maybe not—but you know what your body is capable of and are less likely to take it for granted by your late 40s. "You value appreciating the one body you have and enjoying it while you're in it," says Cook. "Whether this includes intentional exercise, healthy eating, or taking your body on fun adventures, you realize that there's no time like today to make full use of it."
While there are true life stressors in your 40s, perspective definitely plays a role here. The good news is that happiness reaches new heights again in your 70s, according to the study. Sometimes shifting focus is all it takes to find happiness in life at any age.
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