Older adults enjoy sunnier sensations

By Shayna Brouker • Published: November 13th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Grouchy old curmudgeons? Senior citizens often get a bad rap when it comes to positive demeanor, while those young whippersnappers seem to get all the credit for having happier attitudes. The question is, is it true? Not so much, says recent research published in Current Directions in Psychological Science. Science says older adults show more positive emotions and are quicker to snap out of sour moods compared with younger adults.

The research from Northeastern University found that older adults may be better at regulating emotion because they shift their view from the negative to the positive more regularly than younger adults — especially when they are in bad moods. This is when positive thinking counts, but younger adults are more likely to adopt a glass-is-half-full outlook. In other words: Seasoned adults think happy thoughts. And just because they choose to overlook less uplifting stimuli doesn’t mean they’re missing anything.

Other research has also supported the hypothesis that seniors are happier. Another theory is that older adults learn to let go of loss and disappointment over unmet goals, and instead focus on building a brighter future for themselves. Another advantage of aging is that the brain may allow negative memories to fade, as aging brains store memories differently than more sprightly ones.

There are a few lessons youngsters can learn from their elders. Don’t sweat the small stuff, and practice stopping bad thoughts. Literally saying “Stop!” when you’re thinking negative thoughts can end the domino effect, and with practice, retrain your brain to focus on nice notions. Thoughts are linked closely with feelings, so controlling your thoughts can keep emotions on the right track.

So next time you find yourself feeling foul, get inspired by your grandparents and get happy.