The Surprising Age When Happiness Peaks

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retirees senior couple in front of tiny home
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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on NewRetirement.

You probably looked at your parents’ and grandparents’ retirement as times of slowing down. But, if you are in your 50s, 60s, and even 70s or 80s, I am willing to bet that is not how you feel about your own future.

Nowadays, retirement is an exciting time to restart life. And, research firmly backs that these years will likely be your best ever.

Surprising findings: The 2 ages when people are happiest

Senior woman exercising
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This is likely to surprise you. I was kind of shocked. But, a few years ago researchers identified the two ages in an adult’s life when you are likely to be at your happiest.

Experts from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences found that happiness peaks at the ages of 23 and 69.

Whoa! Sixty-nine! That is older than many of us.

NOTE: Don’t worry if you are older than 69, there is still lots of happiness to be had — your happiness will not drop off a cliff!

Why we are happiest at ages 23 and 69

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To determine the happiest ages and why, researchers questioned 23,000 volunteers, aged 17 to 85. They found that people are happiest at 23 and 69 for these reasons:

  • At 23, you have the rigors of education behind you and are embarking on an exciting adult life. You are earning income and have new freedoms.
  • At 69, the stresses of raising a family are behind you and retirement represents a new start — a time for you.

It seems that embarking on a new life adventure helps lead to peak happiness.

Tips for happiness in retirement

Happy senior couple
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Here are a few of my favorite methods for increasing happiness — daily and as a whole, no matter your age:

Look forward

Man dreaming of a vacation
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They say that people are happiest when they live in the here and now.

However, the research cited above theorizes that looking forward and planning for new life experiences can peak happiness. It is similar to studies that suggest that planning a vacation brings more happiness than the travel itself.

Planning for and anticipating the future you want can be a great way to be happy. Dan Sullivan, author, and founder of Strategic Coach Inc. has written extensively about the power of looking forward.

Two of his 30 books deal directly with the concept: “The Laws of Lifetime Growth” “outlines ten ‘laws’ that give readers an internal framework for taking charge of their future.” And, the “Dan Sullivan Question” is a short, simple book that asks you to ponder one important question: If you and I were to meet three years from today, what would you want to have happened for you, personally and professionally, in order to consider those years a success?

Have a written retirement plan

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Yes, we are a retirement planning website, so maybe we are biased. I prefer to think that we just really believe in what we are doing!

Besides, having a written retirement plan is actually proven to reduce stress and make you feel better — more confident — about your future. And let’s face it, stress is almost the exact opposite of happiness!

Plus, building on the previous theme of looking forward, using the NewRetirement Planner is a concrete way to look forward and plan for the life you want.

Think about death

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I just loaded an app onto my phone: “WeCroak.” It sends me an alert at five random times throughout the day that says, “You are going to die.” Oddly enough, the result is that I feel pretty good about where I am today.

Sure, thinking about death is inherently “morbid.” But, the irony is that it is also actually life-affirming. As the WeCroak creators say, “a regular practice of contemplating mortality helps us accept what we must, let go of things that don’t matter, and honor the things that do.”

And, finding happiness by contemplating your mortality is a scientifically backed technique.

Find the positive

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There are two sides to every coin, and a glass is always either half full or half empty. You get to choose what to focus on and focusing on the positive is a sure-fire way to feel happier.

No matter how dire the circumstances, work hard to find one little glimmer of hope and happiness. Focus on that. Foster it. And, you’ll probably find that the little spot of goodness will get bigger.

Focus on relationships

Happy senior couple
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Nurturing your relationships with friends and family and creating new friends has been proven in study after study to be the secret of not only a happy life — but also a longer life. Loneliness is as big a predictor of an earlier death as smoking!

Have a purpose

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Giving back and feeling part of a community are well recognized as being keys to happiness — especially in old age.

And, helping people younger than you can be particularly rewarding. Harvard University’s landmark study of aging well, found that “generativity” (doing things to help younger generations) tripled the chances that someone would feel joy throughout their 70s.

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