3 Simple Tips for Happiness

In my years of working at a senior center, I couldn’t help but notice the wide spectrum of happiness among our members every day. True, one doesn’t have to be around older adults to see happy or sad people. But the paradigm is different when one is talking about people who have lived through 70, 80 or 90 years of ups, downs, joys, sorrows, losses, achievements, births, marriages, grandchildren, deaths, traumas, achievements, and illnesses.

And guess what – none of these things determined how happy or sad they were. There was no correlation between the number of grandchildren and happiness, or sickness and happiness, or wealth and happiness.

Happiness had nothing to do with what one had gained or lost. It came from a place within, and was so deeply rooted that nothing could truly shake it or take it away. I decided to take notes on what was common among all the people who were truly happy and had clearly lived their whole life this way. Here are 3 basic lessons I learned:

  1. Live fully engaged – No matter where you are in your life journey, are you fully living every moment of it? If you are just out of college, a parent of a pre-teen, or a newly minted empty-nester, are you taking full advantage of your life station? Are you savoring each moment you are in and playing your part to its fullest? Call it living mindfully or being active, the happiest people at my senior center were the ones who were taking advantage of the freedom that comes from being an older adult – whether it was to go out every night, sleep in, take classes, watch movies, or travel.
  2. Stay connected – Peer groups and friends are vital, no matter what your age. Whether you are the type who needs just one or two close buddies to get you through life, or a coterie of characters for each mood, there is plenty of research to show that positive relationships are a critical component of happiness. The seniors who had a squad with whom to for early bird specials, share grievances about children, or to simply sit silently and have coffee were undoubtedly happier than those who didn’t.
  3. Choose to smile – The hardest, weirdest and cheesiest of all – smiling. Studies show that smiling triggers a chemical reaction in the brain that trick it into believing it is happy. Essentially, if you want to be happier, don’t wait for something to happen that will make you smile, just smile and make yourself happy. I saw this all the time with my happy seniors – it wasn’t that they didn’t experience their share of grief and tragedy. Smiling was their armor against pain and sadness.

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