The Art of Happiness
Did you know that studies about happiness have consistently shown that you are, on average, happiest at ages 33, 55, and your 70s? In fact, the general trends indicate that the older you get, the happier you become. Scientists attribute this to gaining assets and authority (financially and in your career) as well as gradually becoming free of many of the stress-inducing responsibilities of life.
In other words, your Second Act in life is where true happiness begins. The further you get from the stigmas and expectations of society, the closer you get to living life on your own terms.
What is happiness?
Scientifically speaking, the definition of happiness is referred to as hedonia, the presence of positive emotions, and the absence of negative emotions.
The annual World Happiness Report focuses on happiness contextually, in social, urban, and natural environments. In its most recent report, it listed Denmark in the Top 3 Happiest Countries of the world, a position they have maintained for years. In fact, the Danes are famously considered to be the happiest people in the world.
To get insight into what happiness is in Denmark, we might consider hygge (pronounced hoo-ga), the cornerstone of the Danish way of life. Loosely translated, it means a sense of comfort, togetherness, and well-being. According to Meik Wiking, the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, you know hygge when you feel it.
It is when you are bundled in under a blanket with your partner or sharing comfort food with your closest friends. It’s those fresh morning walks you take in the spring when the weather is just right or the way it feels to hold your first grandchild in your arms. In short, hygge is an art: the art of happiness.
How do I master the art of happiness?
According to the Dalai Lama, happiness is the purpose of life, and “the very motion of our life is towards happiness”. From the happiest people in the world to people like you and me, the pursuit of happiness has been – and continues to be – studied closely. In fact, Harvard’s most popular course was a class on how to be happier.
Positive Psychology 1504, taught by professor Tal Ben-Shahar Ph.D. peaked in 2006 with 1400 Harvard students enrolled in the class. The premise of the whole course is that you learn to be happy just as you can learn a foreign language or practice mindfulness.
In his class, Dr. Ben-Shahar argues that in order to achieve true happiness, we must live for both today and tomorrow. Therefore, happy people are the people who engage in activities which they find meaningful and fulfilling today, which at the same time contribute to a future that is also meaningful and fulfilling.
In other words, happiness is not something you push off or hope for in the future. Rather, it is something you design for the present to enjoy now and later.
So what does this mean for Modern Midlifers?
For those of us embarking on our Second Act, it means that we must live for both today and tomorrow. Happiness is an art, and like all masterpieces, it can take time to create
Take your time finding what works for you in your life. Explore new sides of yourself. An empty nest in retirement does not have to keep you from trying new things.
How are you going to pursue happiness? Share your story with us in our exclusive Facebook Group, Wit & Wisdom, and connect with us about your happiness journey.