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Postcards from Scotland

Some things get better with age

While there are certain realities of getting older such as physical and cognitive decline, the research is finding that older people are happy and content, and happier than their younger counterparts. Psychologist Laura Carstensen calls this the paradox of aging. The explanation seems not to be biological but experiential

Studies are finding that older people attend more to the positive and are less likely to get caught up in their emotions.  In addition to this, older people are less reactive to negative images compared to younger people, and also recover quicker from negative emotions.   Researchers believe that what we call maturity or wisdom is the ability to 'integrate negative emotion or cognitive informaton; being able to weigh it and not find it so disruptive? This ability is fostered by life, and it's inevitable 'knocks and blows'

The realisation that life doesn't last forever may also contribute to older people?s psychological well-being. Older people can chose who to spend their valuable time with and put more value on their fragility of life.  This appreciation of time leads to gratitude, which has been shown to be extremely beneficial for mental health.  In addition to this being able to forgive reduces negative emotions like anger.  There are individual differences with people who are young and grumpy being old and grumpy.  Yet there are small changes people can make at a young age to prepare for a happier old age.

Young people tend to think that happiness is about beauty, material things and great jobs. However, winning the lottery doesn't produce long term gains in our happiness.  In addition to this, people tend to think that aging will be full of bad things; however the research is showing that older people who stay socially connected, pursue new experiences and do things that make them feel useful have happy and content older years.  These findings offer lessons for our young people, such as savoring the moment.  To read this article click here

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