No one looks forward to the process of aging. This is particularly true in our youth- and beauty-obsessed culture, where we take even our youngest, most physically attractive representatives and use tools like Photoshop to make them look more computer-generated than human.
While we can fight against the worst effects of aging through a combination of good sunscreen, a healthy diet, and frequent exercise of body and mind, it is by definition a losing battle. However, I'm here with some good news!
As we get older, we get happier.
This observation has been repeatedly demonstrated now across a number of different types of studies. These studies have included the gold standard of such research - longitudinal studies, or experiments that track the same people over time.
Psychologists are still teasing out the why of this effect. The most compelling theory is called the Socioemotional Selectivity Theory. This theory states that as we age, our perception of the dwindling time we have left leads us to prioritize the processing of positive emotions and goals that maximize our emotional well-being. We may also choose better strategies to decrease negative and amplify positive emotions as we age, a process called emotion regulation.
The wrinkles and forgetfulness might be inevitable. But when it comes to it, you might not mind so much.
Sarah Rose Cavanagh, Ph.D., is professor of psychology in affective science at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts. To learn more about her research, please visit LacasaEdu.com.