Good advice for seniors: Don’t worry, be happy

I marvel at my husband, who’s asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow. Not me.

 If I had a nickel for every time I lay awake at night thinking about something I needed to do the next day or replaying in my mind something that happened at work I’d be rich.

In my 20s I remember being embarrassed when a friend told me I emotionally reacted to a problem that might be rated a two like it was a 10. I actually wished that I had been born less inclined to agonize over even the smallest of things.

I’ve been a worrier my entire life, but thankfully, age has tempered my fretting.

It’s not that I have done anything special—except get older. It seems nature helps us to manage the ups and downs of life more skillfully as we age.

There is a theory called the Paradox of Aging, which posits that peoples’ reasoning changes as we get older.

We are all well-aware of the second-half-of-life losses that can occur, such as loss of career status, loss of beauty, health declines, the deaths of friends and family.

With all these losses, one would think there would be a decline in the overall emotional health of a senior. But indeed the opposite is true. Seniors’ moods, sense of well-being and ability to handle stress keep improving right up to the end of life.

That is the Paradox of Aging.

Some researchers believe that highintensity emotions like exhilaration and enthusiasm are more likely to decrease with age and are replaced with low-arousal emotions like contentment or feeling at peace.

Maybe so.

In my 20s I became friends with a neighbor who was in her 60s. I remember her telling me that she really didn’t cry anymore.

This seemed unheard of to me. Whether it was a boyfriend breaking up with me or a scolding from my boss, crying was almost a certainty.

It’s only many years later when

I think about this and realize it’s been a long time since I cried that I realize that aging has changed my reactions to things.

Am I more content? You bet. I am comfortable with the choices I’ve made, where I am in my life and what the future may hold.

I do my best to hold back anticipatory grief and enjoy the moments with my mother and father until there will be no more. I try to live in the moment as each day gives me a new gift of time with them.

I am much more authentic at 59 than I was at 30. At 30, I was trying to act the way my boss, boyfriend or friends wanted me to act, or the way I thought other women my age would act.

Now I do what I want and (most of the time) say what I feel while trying to be considerate and compassionate.

I know better now how to avoid negative experiences. I use the wisdom that I have collected thus far in life to steer clear of situations that put me in an uncomfortable position.

Again, I am not special. I am just older. And that is a gift nature has given me.

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Andrea GallagherAndrea Gallagher

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