How the Definition of Happiness Changes as We Age

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How the Definition of Happiness Changes as We Age

No matter where you were born, where you live, or which walk of life you’re coming from, you and everyone around you always share the same goal – to be happy. However, achieving happiness has a completely different connotation in relation to our age. Our standard goes from eating ice cream as a child to receiving a message from one of those famous people on Snapchat.
This is completely normal, yet, it can still catch us off-guard. That’s why we’re here today to look into the reasons behind this change and all aspects that might impact our happiness both positively and negatively.

The Definition

Despite the fact that all of us know what happiness is and what it feels like, it can be really hard – if no impossible – to precisely define it. This is why sometimes it can be very difficult to understand what it is that makes us happy in the first place.

As the matter of fact, social psychologist Jennifer Aaker combined the results of several studies in order to closer explain why and how our definition of happiness mutates over the course of our lives. She says: “In a recent set of studies, we looked for evidence of how our sense of happiness changes with age by analyzing 12 million personal blogs.

Specifically, we were interested in seeing what kinds of emotions the bloggers mentioned when they talked about feeling ‘happy’, Aaker adds: “We found that younger bloggers described experiences of happiness as being times when they felt excited, ecstatic, or elated — the way you feel when you’re anticipating the joys the future will bring — while older bloggers were more inclined to describe happy experiences as moments of feeling peaceful, relaxed, calm, or relieved — the way you feel when you’re getting along with your spouse, staying healthy and able to make your mortgage payments.”

From Moment to Moment

Even though the abovementioned explains the difference between happiness in younger and older individuals, it still doesn’t really paint a clear picture as to why this happens.

Luckily, Jennifer has something else to say: “As people age, their temporal focus changes — whether they’re likely to be focused on the here and now or on the future. And it’s this temporal focus that drives the basic effects.”

“In one of the six studies, we recruited young adult volunteers — individuals who they expected would perceive happiness as an exciting experience,” she adds. “We told half of the volunteers to focus on the present, and to relinquish thoughts of anything but the current moment. That group of volunteers was later far more likely to define happiness as “peaceful” than the volunteers who were not led to focus on the present moment.”

“As a result, we now believe that attitudes toward happiness are highly malleable, and, in fact, easily influenced, simply by shifting the timeframe people consider.” This lets us come up with a vague, yet
sufficient definition: happiness is regulated by that which is the most important to you at that given moment. This would explain why our definition of happiness changes as we grow older and why it’s important to find balance in perceiving that feeling.

Stefan Simonovic
First Beat Media


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