The Seven Habits that Lead to Happiness in the Old Age

We see many unhappy, lonely, and downright miserable older people in our medical practice. In a recent book, Arthur Brooks talks about creating habits earlier in your life to bring and maintain happiness in later life. Happiness usually increases as we enter the 5th decade and remains high throughout the sixth and seventh decades. However, some people tend to fall off that curve. Brooks looked at the famous 1938 Harvard study of adult development, where they followed the sophomores for over 80 years. Using data from the Harvard study, two researchers emphasized that we could directly control seven big investment decisions that lead to successful aging. The answers are pretty simple.

  1. Don’t smoke or do drugs.
  2. Watch your drinking
  3. Maintain a healthy body weight
  4. Do exercise daily and be on the move; even 7,000 steps/per day will do
  5. Practice your coping mechanism. Seek therapy, mentoring, or spiritual assistance
  6. Engage in lifelong, purposive learning
  7. Do the work to cultivate stable, long-term relationships now: this includes spouse, friends, and community.

Take an inventory of your habits and behaviors today, and see where you need to invest a little more time, energy, or money to start moving in the right direction. Everyone loves a happy ending, especially in their own life story. Start writing that ending today.