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Are you happy?

By ClientWise | June 2, 2010

Some people say that happiness is a state of mind, just like feeling young. Let’s face it, everyone has their good days and bad days, but some people are just happier than others. A new study reported by LiveScience.com says that age is a big factor in determining who’s happy. The study, reported by Rachael Rettner for LiveScience.com, revealed that older people in their mid- to late-50s are generally happier, and experience less stress and worry than younger adults.

The results were based on Gallup phone surveys conducted in 2008 of more than 340,000 Americans. It included measures of both overall happiness (called global well-being) and day-to-day experiences of specific feelings such as stress and happiness (called hedonic well being). It’s more impactful to include both types of happiness in a study such as this because the first provides a more reflective look at life while the second gives a more immediate view of life.

I guess this makes sense. If we were only talking about hedonic well being, I would argue that children and younger people are the happiest people on earth. Have you ever seen a three-year old bite into a cupcake or jump into a pool? Do six-year olds ponder paying the bills? Do 10-year olds worry about paying the mortgage or finding a job? Generally speaking, most kids are happy all the time; they have no worries or fears—their parents do all the worrying for them.

People’s overall satisfaction with their lives showed a U-shaped pattern in the study, dipping down until about the age of 50 before trending upward again. Stress and anger steadily decreased from young adulthood through old age. Worry was fairly constant until age 50, when it declined. Sadness levels rose slightly in the early 40s and declined in the mid 50s, but overall sadness didn’t change much with age.

Study researcher Arthur Stone, a psychologist at Stony Brook University in New York explains several theories that may explain the trend:

  • Older people are better at controlling their emotions than younger people,
  • Older people remember fewer negative memories; they focus on telling and retelling stories about the “good old days”,
  • Older people might focus less on what they have or have not achieved and more on how to get the most out of the rest of their lives.

Of course, this is just one study. More research is needed. But is it? Can you really measure true happiness? Should we try? Maybe we should spend less time trying to figure out why people are happy and just spend more time being with people we like, doing the things we enjoy. Certainly that should make us happy.

Are you happy today? Why not send a friend an email and attach a Smiley face to it. It might make you happy (at least for a minute), and you might make your friend happy, too.

According to Wikipedia, Smiley has been a registered trademark in some countries since 1971 when French journalist Franklin Loufrani created "Smiley World" to sell, advertise and license the smiley face image in the United Kingdom and Europe. The Smiley name and logo is registered and used in over 100 countries. Loufrani had created the icon in 1971 to highlight good news in newspaper articles.

Need an even happier pick-me-up, listen to Bobby McFerrin sing his 1988 hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” on Youtube. The song was the first a cappella song to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, a position it held for two weeks. The song's title is taken from a famous quote by Meher Baba.

The Indian mystic and sage Meher Baba (1894–1969) often used the expression "Don't worry, be happy" when cabling his followers. In 1988, McFerrin saw a poster of Baba with the quote and was inspired by the expression's charm and simplicity; as a result, the song was composed.

Peace of mind, including financial stability, can certainly help to reduce one’s anxiety about living the lifestyle he or she wants in retirement and contribute to one’s overall well being and state of happiness. As a wealth advisor, are you doing everything you can to make your clients as happy as they can be, regardless of their age?

Topics: Perseverance

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