Want to be happy without spending a boatload of money? Think like an old person. The New York Times reported:
Older people report higher levels of contentment or well-being than teenagers and young adults. The six elders put faces on this statistic. If they were not always gleeful, they were resilient and not paralyzed by the challenges that came their way. All had known loss and survived. None went to a job he did not like, coveted stuff she could not afford, brooded over a slight on the subway or lost sleep over events in the distant future. They set realistic goals. Only one said he was afraid to die.
Gerontologists call this the paradox of old age: that as people’s minds and bodies decline, instead of feeling worse about their lives, they feel better. In memory tests, they recall positive images better than negative; under functional magnetic resonance imaging, their brains respond more mildly to stressful images than the brains of younger people.
John Sorensen, who liked to talk, brought cheer to every conversation, even those about wanting to die. Helen Moses and Ping Wong knew exactly what they wanted: for Ms. Moses, it was her daughter and Mr. Zeimer; for Ms. Wong, it was mah-jongg and the camaraderie it entailed, even if the other players spoke a different dialect or followed the rules of a different home region. Mr. Jones, Ms. Willig and Mr. Mekas all spent their energy on the things they could still do that brought them satisfaction, not on what they had lost to age.
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