One of our society’s best-kept secrets is that we human beings actually get happier as we get older. No, really! You wouldn’t know it from popular media, which either plays up the nostalgia for youth or tries to make us feel awful about the natural signs of aging.
But studies show that as we get older, we enjoy life more.
I read about the studies in a Psychology Today article a few years ago; but this is something I’ve intuitively known for most of my life.
I’ve always looked forward to getting older. In fact, I have a name for it thanks to a dream I had many years ago. In the dream I was reading a story and came across this sentence: “She had stumbled upon a community of people who were aging backwards.”
Now, as I prepare to turn 50 this month, I’m part of that community. I’m aging backwards.
It’s not common to express excitement about getting older. Many people my age (or even younger) complain about the physical symptoms and focus on stories from the past. I think it’s just a habit – our cultural norms don’t encourage us to live in the moment.
In my experience, my life has gotten better and better with each decade that passes!
Here are five reasons to revel in getting older:
1. More freedom
If you’re a parent, this one’s a no-brainer. Raising kids takes up a lot of time and energy. As you age, they grow up, and your time becomes more expansive. In terms of your career, if you work for someone else, your vacation time often increases and accrues.
Even if you don’t have children or a day job, as you get older you’ve learned to master many of life’s tasks and to prioritize what truly matters. Have you heard of Malcom Gladwell’s idea that it takes 10,000 hours of focused practice to achieve mastery? Think about how much practice you’ve now had at being yourself! This frees up more time to relax, pursue your passions, travel or whatever you choose to do.
2. Less people-pleasing
I’m sure you’ve seen the memes about “women of a certain age having no f*$!s left to give.” It’s true. I used to be a huge people-pleaser, fretting about my appearance, my words and how I came across to, well, pretty much everyone I encountered. It was exhausting.
As I got older, it made less and less sense. I decided to get comfortable with being myself and not worry so much about what others think. I released my attachment to external validation – and you know what? Nothing bad happened. If you’re not someone’s cup of tea, that’s fine. You’re focused on what you love and that’s bound to attract people with similar tastes.
3. More appreciation
As the Psychology Today article says, “as a general rule, older adults find themselves increasingly delighted by daily-life experiences.” I’ve certainly found that to be true. It’s especially so if you’ve been practicing gratitude. It feels like it’s exponential – the more things I find to be thankful for, the more appear!
When you look closely, it’s easy to see that life is filled with blessings. As I write this, I’m listening to a writing playlist that I made and the pure harmonic voices of Rising Appalachia fill my ears and lift my heart. Music is such a blessing! And that’s just one tiny example.
When you release your focus on external validation you wake up more fully to your own inner world and its expression in your life.
4. Wisdom to share
As a writer, having lived a full life and experienced many things, I have a lot more to write about. Over time we accumulate wisdom that is worth sharing. You might choose to share it in many different forms: art, music, craft, work, conversation or simply in the way you choose to live. Expressing your creativity brings joy and fulfillment.
5. Harvesting and planting
As you get older you begin to reap the rewards of all the energy you’ve put into what you do. This can mean that you enjoy time with grandchildren, receive accolades for your work, make more money, enjoy the mastery of your creative work or simply bask in being the experience of freedom.
If you’re not enjoying what you do – perhaps a long-time relationship has ended, or you no longer enjoy your work – it’s an opportunity to plant something new. You can bring a particular phase of your life to a close, consciously and mindfully choosing something new.
Aging backwards means choosing to bring the grand secret to light – life doesn’t end as soon as you get that first wrinkle or grey hair. In fact, the party is just getting started!
Enjoy your freedom and revel in your hard-won wisdom. Your life is yours to do with as you wish as long as you’re here on this lovely Earth.