I get the Bold School e-mail from the Washington Post; it’s basically a weekly report on some aspect of aging and it’s always interesting. This week’s was on the grumpy old person stereotype, countered with research that shows that happiness throughout life is a U shape, declining through the thirties and forties and then rising again in the fifties and continuing to rise after that. The e-mail concluded with the idea that even if you’re a pessimist, happiness is something that you can consciously practice in small ways until it becomes a habit. Such as (from the e-mail):
Practice gratitude. Keep a gratitude journal, pray or do kind things, such as emailing notes of praise or thanks, or letting someone go in front of you in traffic. Our colleague (and Bold School copy editor) Jim Webster jots down one positive thing a day, then posts the whole lot at month’s end. (I may try this in January or February. February is usually my happiness killer.)
Do the obvious stuff. Get enough sleep and exercise, breathe deeply, and smile regardless of how you feel. (Okay, not the last one. Women get told to smile all the damn time. I’ll smile when I want to, not because somebody doesn’t want to look at my resting bitch face.)
Focus on good news amid the bleak. Read uplifting selections from The Post’s Inspired Life section, including this story about a therapist who teaches patients to retrain their brains. And check out our weekend good-news newsletter, The Optimist, or flip through our new series on climate change solutions. (I can recommend The Optimist newsletter. In fact, I highly recommend the Washington Post in general.)
Practice self-compassion. Stop comparing yourself to others, and surround yourself with positive people. (This is why we do Happiness Sundays, folks. Even if I’ve been a grinch this year.)
Pretend to be decades younger. Cliches about being only as old as you feel are starting to have scientific backing. (I told Krissie we were never going to die because I feel nineteen and she acts like she’s fourteen. She said the thought that she acted like fourteen made her happy. See? It works.)
Note: Today is the shortest day (stretch of daylight), aka the Winter Solstice (Summer Solstice for those down under). From now on it will gradually stay lighter longer. Since I’m a big fan of light, this is another reason to be happy, even though we’re not going to see spring until April. Happy Solstice, Light Lovers!