The 7 Secrets of Happiness
We have entered lockdown once more with all the curtailment on our freedom of choice that this entails. On the world stage there is much to worry and concern us as the USA splits into polarised camps over who should become the next president and therefore the most powerful person on earth.
Yet despite all of these convulsions, over which I have absolutely no control,
I am not desperately miserable, probably because I am in my later years
and know what I need in order to be happy.
Let’s start with my age. In May 2020 UCL carried out a study on over 18,000 people born in 1958, 1970, 1990 and 2000 to explore the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic on the mental health and well being of these four generations. Guess what? The researchers found that poor mental health in lockdown was most common among 20 year olds, followed by the 30 year old millennials. Among the older generations surveyed, there was little change in the prevalence of mental ill-health, compared to assessments in the same group several years before. This doesn’t surprise me at all because with age comes resilience, perspective and coping strategies. Despite being at much greater risk of dying from infection by this horrible virus, our generation has managed to cope better, perhaps because we know from experience that it helps to maintain an attitude of quiet resignation and a determination to KBO - the motto we all adopted on Super Troopers and in our Teatime at the Ritz sessions - to just ‘Keep Buggering On.’
And then there is the U curve of happiness. We start and end our lives happier than we are in the middle years; the nadir being reached in our late 40s. This is a universal phenomenon and is found in studies worldwide. Childhood and later life would appear to be the most satisfying and enjoyable periods of our lives. I can absolutely attest to that personally. The whole of my 40s was a struggle as I lost both of my parents, and I was doing my utmost to provide financially for my newly divorced self and two teenage daughters. These later years, despite the challenges that life inevitably throws up, have felt like sunlit uplands compared to that time of turmoil and struggle.
The third reason that we as a group are likely to be happier is that we have figured out what actually constitutes happiness in life. For my ‘Seven Secrets of Happiness’ I am indebted to the late Dr. Antony Clare who was an Irish psychiatrist whom you may remember from the TV and radio in interviews he conducted with various well known people called ‘In the Psychiatrist’s chair’. With great charm and skill he often managed to get famous people to talk openly about their innermost fears and feelings. Here’s his list with my observations about why we are so good at unlocking these secrets as we get older
The Seven Secrets of Happiness
1. Cultivate a Passion.
Something that lights your fire and makes your heart sing. This week in our ‘All About Me’ Zoom session, Kathy Sharp told us how at 60 she had started to write, illustrate and bind her own novels, turning her books into perfect little works of art. Just one example of all the things that you are offering to entertain us with in the coming months as a Tricia Talk or an All About Me conversation. Kathy and I agreed in our chat that with age comes time and headspace as well as the confidence to pursue a new interest or maybe pick up and develop an old skill.
2. Be Part of Something Bigger than Yourself.
I had another conversation this week with Jackie Trotman who’ll be talking to us on Tuesday November 17th (link below) about her passion for sewing. Jackie lives in a village in the Cotswolds and belongs to a group which takes care of the upkeep of the village by painting the benches etc. I asked her if the volunteers were mostly older. Of course they were! Because that’s what we’re so good at; helping out, keeping things going, giving our time and energy to worthwhile activities. Many organisations (clubs, societies, charities, the church, local groups) would simply grind to a halt without the army of older volunteers which run them.
3. Avoid Introspection.
Navel-gazing is very tempting at any age but I’ve learnt that sometimes it’s best to ask myself ‘what do I need to learn from this?’ And then move on. I don’t believe in regrets or beating myself up about something I probably should not have said or done. However I do believe in admitting I was wrong and to apologise if needs be. People who can’t ever be wrong are very tiresome however old they are!
4. Accept Change.
This is the biggie for us as we get older. So much easier to get into that great big rut and stay there! Oh no, I could never do that! Oh no, that’s just not possible for me! Our defensiveness comes from fear of - well - what? The Unknown? Failure? Looking silly? Messing up? And yet without change, life narrows and opportunities dwindle. Lockdown has forced change onto all of us and it looks as if we have adapted rather better than most. Who would have thought we’d all be Zooming like professionals? Or taking selfies of our latest bright lipstick colour and posting them on Super Troopers?
5. Live in the Moment.
I am writing this on one of those rare and beautiful chilly autumn mornings with a crystal clear blue sky, bright sunlight and a view of many trees all changing colour. I keep stopping to look up and enjoy it because I was up until 4.00 am watching the US election results and I am very tired. It’s so lovely just to slow down, stop for a few moments and feel at peace. Right here, right now is all I have and I need to keep reminding myself of that. It’s also all I need right now, everything else is just noise. Mindfulness is another topic we have been offered for a ‘Tricia Talk’ and I am really looking forward to it!
6. Audit Your Happiness.
Probably best summed up as ‘count your blessings’. I do my utmost to find pleasure in small everyday things. Waiting for wonderful holidays, a longed for cruise or some special and much anticipated event is a way to wish your life away. I now measure my happiness in the delicious bowl of homemade soup I am just about to eat (Butternut Squash with Peanut Butter added after blending) and the podcast I will listen to while I eat it. Then I might do a bit of my jigsaw which is a large map of the world as I am trying to be better at geography! When I was younger I was in such a hurry. I felt I had so much to prove that I used to rush through life at full tilt. Finally I have learnt how important it is to slow down and smell the roses (I don’t drink coffee!).
7. Act Happy - that alone can effect change.
Do you know people who are always moaning? Talk about glass half empty! The list of things to moan about at the moment is endless. Can’t do this or that or the other. Everything is cancelled, put on hold or in question. Can’t plan, look forward with any certainty or make decisions which may have to be altered. But I refuse to be down-hearted. This too shall pass (sorry I know I keep saying that but it will - I promise). Meanwhile be your own best friend, be kind to yourself and the people in your life, keep your pecker up, and maybe, just maybe, 2021 will be a whole lot easier than this year has been.