Today I learned of yet another study concluding people become happier as they age. The study’s authors, psychologist Derek M. Isaacowitz of Northeastern University and the late Fredda Blanchard-Fields of Georgia Institute struggled to find real evidence and came up short. I’m not surprised. Happiness is a pretty slippery concept. So is trying to figure out how to define and identify it concretely enough to study it.
Still, it’s not just a quixotic quest. It’s a yearning. I just Googled “happiness” and got 57,500,000 results. Then I tried “happy” and came up with 3,670,000,000 results. Joy brought up 155,000,000 results. That’s a lot of people studying, writing, painting, filming, dancing, and speculating about something that can’t be touched or tasted.
What gives me hope is not so much the studies that hypothesize we grow happier as we age. Rather, it’s that we stumble onto happiness in so many ways, all through life. Sun breaks through clouds. A child laughs. A friend calls. The job comes through. The dog greets us with tail-wagging delight. Small moments or large, they set off a burst of, well, happiness.
What Anna Freud had to say about inner strength could also be said about happiness:
I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence, but it comes from within. It is there all the time.
Happiness – it’s there all along.