40 Something – Well you’re about to get happier…
How to beat the mid-life slump? Well you’re about to get happier… 40 Something is no longer what it once was, in fact you could say it’s not even half way threw your life anymore. Yes, there are the inevitable signs of ageing – more aches and pains and the sprouting of those grey hairs, but it doesn’t mean it’s all bad news. There are many great advantages to being over 40!
As you age you’ll realise that you don’t have to please everyone anymore and choose to spend time with those that add positive value to your life. You know what makes you happy and don’t waste time worrying about what other people are doing or thinking. It no longer bothers you that you are carrying those extra pounds or that you no longer fit into those tight jeans. You mature, and part of that maturity is knowing what values you live by and what makes you content.
This is the time of life when the children have grown out of their very dependent stage and with that, you get more time to yourself. It’s not as freeing as when they leave home, but at this stage you get an inkling of how things will be when your babies fly off and make their own lives.
There is now time to develop hobbies and to get enjoyment from the things you choose to do. You’ll have the time now to learn new skills, develop your passion for cooking, or painting, sewing, gardening, hiking, camping, or a hundred other things you never had time for in your 20’s and 30’s.
A new study shows that happiness increases significantly after your 40’s and that the previous things that used to bother you are no longer a barrier to this encroaching sense of satisfaction with later life. Why? Well, lowering expectations seems to have a lot to do with it…
A cross-cultural study of 10,000 respondents across the UK and the US found that people reported better mental quality of life as they age, despite a decrease in physical quality of life. The new research, undertaken by Warwick University, measured quality of life using eight different factors including perception of general health, pain, social functioning and mental health.
Dr Saverio Stranges, who led the study, said: “It’s obvious that people’s physical quality of life deteriorates as they age, but what is interesting is that their mental well-being doesn’t also deteriorate – in fact it increases.
“We suggest that this could be due to better coping abilities, an interpretation supported by previous research showing older people tend to have internal mechanisms to deal better with hardship or negative circumstances than those who are younger.”
“It could also be due to a lowering of expectations from life, with older people less likely to put pressure on themselves in the personal and professional spheres.”
Previous research by Professor Andrew Oswald, also at the University of Warwick, has suggested that happiness levels follow a U-shape curve with their lowest point in the mid-40s after which they rise as people move into older age. For both men and women in the UK, the probability of depression peaked at around the age of 44.
Oswald said at the time: “What causes this apparently U-shaped curve, and its similar shape in different parts of the developed and even often developing world, is unknown.
“However, one possibility is that individuals learn to adapt to their strengths and weaknesses, and in mid-life quell their infeasible aspirations.”
“Only in their 50’s do most people emerge from the low period. But encouragingly, by the time you are 70, if you are still physically fit then on average you are as happy and mentally healthy as a 20-year-old. Perhaps realising that such feelings are completely normal in mid-life might even help individuals survive this phase better.”
How to beat the mid-life slump?
5 Ways to survive that mid 40’s slump..
Naturally, it’s not the case that we all go merrily through life until aged 45 or 50, we suddenly have a mid-life crisis. Many of us will have experienced crises and losses earlier on in life. What we go through during our middle years will be an expression of each person’s unique life-history and the problems that we have encountered. But it’s possible to view mid-life difficulties as having a very real purpose in terms of our personal development. It’s a time of transition that enables us to grow and explore different ways of being and living. The analytical psychologist Carl Jung emphasised that, ‘the greatest potential for growth and self-realisation exists in the second half of life.’
You may feel in a state of emotional turmoil without being able to define what, if anything, you wish to change. It’s important to look carefully at all the different areas of your life to identify how you want to live in the future.
You may have an instinctive feeling that this is make-or-break time and that you need to leave a job or a relationship in order to flourish. Other people see no need for radical change, but wish to improve their relationships, develop creative interests, retrain, or start their own businesses. Be realistic and as honest with yourself as possible.
1. Reassess your life
Try considering all the important beliefs you hold, perhaps unwittingly, about your own life, such as, ‘I must stay in this relationship, however painful it is, because there’s no alternative’. Or, ‘I only have value in my role as a parent and taking care of others’. Write down the reasons why you hold these views. Are they still valid? Do they fit in with the life you want in the future?
2. Plan for the future
Oscar Wilde famously stated, ‘Youth is wasted on the young’. Mid-life can provide tremendous opportunities for personal growth and positive change. Many people acquire a wisdom, maturity and self-confidence that was distinctly lacking in earlier life. These can be immensely useful in dealing with existing relationships and lifestyle, as well as forging new beginnings.
You may decide to work part-time so as to develop a creative interest or spend more time with your family. You may identify an area of employment that interests you more than your current job. Or you may wish to become involved in voluntary work or to retrain and acquire new skills.
3.Identify the positive aspects of mid-life
It’s possible to view mid-life crisis as a mid-life quest. It can be a time of opportunity when, in letting go of the image of ourselves as young people, we can also put behind us past disappointments, failures and memories of our own less-than-perfect behaviour.
Many people, even those who dread the prospect of ageing, actually say they would not wish to be young again. It’s important to remember problems and insecurities you had when you were younger and identify skills and knowledge that you can now use to deal with your present difficulties.
Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of growing older, you can view this period as a time for moving forward, a time for developing your own sense of values rather than conforming to the expectations of others. Start by doing things you wouldn’t normally do, such as talking to a new person or joining a society or evening class. Bear in mind that Tolstoy, the Russian author, learned to ride a bike at the age of 67. Don’t use age as an excuse not to try new approaches.
4. Assert yourself
You will need to be assertive about shaping home, family, life and work as you would like them to be. Many people, particularly women, may feel guilty about taking care of themselves, having time to themselves, saying ‘no’ to others’ demands and setting boundaries. There may be a long-standing pattern in your life of fitting in with everyone else’s wants and needs and neglecting your own.
5. Talk it through
Some people find that talking about their problems with a psychotherapist or a counsellor helps them to make sense of confusing and painful feelings. Counselling may be short-term and focus on immediate practical issues and goals. Psychotherapy tends to be a more long-term process and involves looking at deeply-rooted patterns of behaviour and attitudes, developing an understanding of why we may be trapped in destructive situations and relationships and what we can do to change. For more information check out British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy www.counselling.co.uk. Mind at www.mind.org.uk