The Little Things Turning 30 Taught Me About Happiness

Photo by Mathias Konrath on Unsplash
Overall life satisfaction in the UK, graph by the World Economic Forum: source

There’s no “u” in happiness

Recent studies have shown again and again that our perceived happiness fluctuates over the course of our lives to form a u-curve. It’s moderately high in our early 20s, then steadily descends until the dreaded “mid-life crisis,” until ultimately going back up and peaking as we head into retirement.

Holding on to a burning fuse

In my early 20s, I had a lot on my mind. I was afraid of failing to get into a good university, failing to start a solid career, failing to enjoy my early years as much as I was supposed to, and so on. A lot of the stress I was carrying had to do with what was happening in the moment, and whether that could bring me to how I wanted my life to look like in the future.

Photo by runnyrem on Unsplash
Photo by Carlos Alberto Gómez Iñiguez on Unsplash

A delicate balancing act

This shift from first seeing life extend onward from the present, to then considering it as a whole is, I suspect, the deeper reason behind the massive slump in the happiness curve. By the time we are mature enough to accept that life is a lit fuse — and act accordingly — so much of it is already gone that we succumb to existential dread.

Every moment counts

When time is all that’s left, every moment becomes invaluable. Research shows the elderly are happier because they have gained a healthier perspective on life; a new appreciation for their time on Earth. The end is clearer than ever, which means that finally, they can focus their mental energy not on some wild hypotheses of where life may take them, but rather on making the most out of every last step.

Flattening the happiness curve

What were the moments in your life when you felt the happiest? For me, it was when I felt lost in the now. Surrounded by friends on a road trip in a new and exiting part of the world. Putting all of my energy and creativity into a project I cared deeply about. Opening my heart to write and watching in awe as words pour out faster than I can put them to paper.

Travel | Humor | Language | Society. Writing out of passion. Tokyo-based polyglot with a degree in human rights. Find me on Twitter and Instagram @alexstwrites.

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