The Paradox of Aging: the Happiness U-Curve

When imagining aging, most middle-aged people look ahead with trepidation. But take heart: the best is likely yet to come!

Satisfaction surveys have found that happiness increases after middle age, and this pattern shows up around the globe. Referred to as the Happiness U-Curve, the data show that on average, life satisfaction drops during midlife and begins its recovery around age 50, reaching its peak at the end of life.


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Embrace Conflict for Valentine’s Day

With Valentine’s Day approaching, let’s focus on the most important ingredient of a healthy relationship: constructive conflict.

The term conflict usually brings to mind destructive conflict, such as yelling, bullying and physical aggression. But it’s also destructive to hold conflict in and be torn-up inside by anguish that isn’t being expressed. This is true for romances, friendships, parenting and work relationships.

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Resolve to Refresh

Have you ever returned from a vacation feeling depleted rather than replenished? Maybe you were jetlagged after an international adventure or drained from overextending yourself to host family or friends. As you return from this holiday break, whether you feel rested or weary, focus on refreshing yourself regularly this year.

The body, mind and spirit crave a pattern of alternating expansion and restoration. You will be at your best when you stretch yourself and then regroup before stretching once again. Sleep is a great example – the body and mind need rest at the end of each day in order to consolidate the learning, insights and activities of the day and reset in preparation for the next day’s experiences. Similarly, your muscles need a day to repair after a weight training session.

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Gratitude as an Antidote to Craving

The season of indulgence has begun. If you received trick-or-treaters at your home, then you may still have leftover candy tempting you. Thanksgiving offers a delicious feast, served up with a side order of gratitude, followed by the biggest shopping day of the year.

The holiday season is presented as “the most wonderful time of the year,” but for many, it is overwhelming, lonely, and draining. 

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Healthy Emotional Eating

Do you ever soothe yourself with food after a hard day? Usually we think of emotional eating as turning to unhealthy comfort food when we are upset. But you can attend to your mood by making healthy eating choices. With a few yummy substitutions in your snack drawer, you can improve your psychological and physical health.

Blood sugar fluctuations can be associated with moodiness. Stabilize yourself emotionally while managing your weight by eating healthy snacks in between smaller meals. For example, you might consider putting a baggie of nuts and dark chocolate chips into your purse or desk drawer to keep yourself consistently fueled and emotionally even. Dark chocolate seems to improve mood by boosting endorphins. Continue reading

Coping with Change

As the saying goes, change is the only constant. Given this truth, why is change so stressful?

The brain has a function similar to a motion stabilizer on a video camera. With this feature, the videographer can be jostled and bumped while filming without creating footage that leaves the viewer feeling queasy. Like a Steadicam, the brain orients towards stability, giving you a sense of calm while glossing over the moment-to-moment changes happening all around you. But when a big change hits, you feel jarred and destabilized. Continue reading

Practice Self-Compassion

Imagine that a dear friend calls you in distress. How would you respond? What would you say? What would your tone of voice sound like? Now, consider how you talk to yourself when you are distraught, or when you’ve made a mistake. Do you treat yourself with the same kindness and warmth you would offer to a friend? Is it easier to be understanding and kind toward someone else than to yourself?

If you tend to approach yourself with criticism and harshness, consider how you can be a better friend to yourself. When you support a friend, you likely see your friend more holistically. You see your friend’s struggles and strengths. You see his/her mistakes in a broader context. You can be merciful toward your friend. How might you bring this Friend Mindset to your own self-observation? Continue reading

Quick Stress Relief Strategies

One of the most useful techniques to quickly calm yourself is to exhale deeply. This simple action can soothe the body’s alarm, the sympathetic nervous system, and activate the all-clear signal, the parasympathetic nervous system. A deep exhalation leaves you calmer and thinking more clearly. Use the muscles around your lungs to push the air all the way out of your lungs. Take a moment and try this now.

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