What if, at 49, my best times are behind me?

I’ve been restless, unhappy, and vaguely dissatisfied lately. 

First of all, give yourself some grace. These are exceptional times that we’re living in, and exceptionally difficult. It’s hard to feel happy when you don’t feel safe. 

But, to your question, maybe it would help to know that there’s a U-shaped happiness curve not just for Americans but for people across the world. The curve bottoms out around age 48 and then slowly climbs. It happens in apes, too! Researchers think the unhappiness in midlife might be biological, that is, nature’s way of redirecting us to do things that might be beneficial to the community.

Your best times can still be ahead of you!

A smaller study of happiness saw a different result: People in their twenties were less happy than people in their forties, who were less happy than people in their nineties! They found a linear relationship between age and mental health, with “no dips” in midlife. 

It’s still good news for you (and all of us), though. It’s likely that you will be happy again. Maybe now is a good time to think about what is important to you, and who is important to you. Does where you are spending time align with what you think is most important? If not, consider how you could change your life to make that happen. If you do, it could very well be that your best times are ahead of you!