Happiness is just around the bend


It’s true – your life is getting worse.

If you’re in the period between being an adult and heading towards middle age, that is.

The U-curve of happiness is a theory that says we are happiest when young, as children.

Happiness levels decline as we grow and turn into adults, reaching a low in middle age.

But what about children, you might ask. Surely parents are happy?

It turns out that they aren’t, not really.

The sleepless nights and physical exhaustion that comes from having children, and then the sleepless nights and mental exhaustion that comes when they turn into young adults means that people score low on happiness measures around that time.

But then, as you come to terms with life, things become better.

As you get older, happiness increases once again, as you get to do what you want to do once again, and get some of your time back.

The U-curve theory has its critics – many people do not have happy childhoods, many people have a difficult and lonely old age and many people don’t live in free and prosperous countries.

It may be something that only applies to rich and generally healthy population groups.

What this tells us, however, is that our expectations of the future are made up of socially constructed ideas.

You might think that parenthood might be the happiest time of your life. But the experience itself might not be, even though you wouldn’t change a thing.

It is easy to assume that older people have little to contribute – but today people are living and working longer than ever.

We are experiencing a time when three generations can work in the same organization together – all at different stages of happiness in their lives.

Even if the theory is wrong, the thing with a U-curve is that it’s pretty helpful when trying to come to terms with a situation.

After all, however bad things are, you know they could always be worse.

And when you’re at rock bottom, you know the only way is up.

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