I’m 53 and according to Duke University economist Peter Ubel, I’m at the bottom of the U-Bend curve of Life (Happiness).
I guess the good news is, the name of this curve implies that, I have nowhere to go but UP in my happiness level. For the record, even though I’m theoretically the MOST unhappy I’ve ever been or will ever be, I still consider myself a ‘Happy’ person. For whatever that is worth.
The Economist reports on the study in which Peter Ubel asked groups of 30-year-olds and 70-year-olds which age group (30 or 70) they thought would be happier. Both groups pointed towards the 30-year-olds, but when they rated their own happiness levels, the 70-year-olds scored higher. As a matter of fact, Mindy Greenstein and Jimmie Holland, authors of Lighter as We Go: Virtues, Character Strengths, and Aging, research has shown that among people between the ages of 18 and 85, the age group that feels the greatest sense of happiness and well-being is …wait for it … 82-85. How crazy is that? And, the researchers were so shocked at the results that they did a bunch of other studies, across different developed and developing countries to double-triple-check. Sadly, all these studies bore out that YES, I am the MOST UNHAPPY right now!
We Are Not Alone
“Many of the women in my life are complaining about the same things”
I know I’m not alone. Many of the women in my life are complaining about the same things: I’ve gained weight and I can’t seem to shed it. What am I doing with my life? Should I quit my job? Divorce my spouse? Have an affair? Learn a musical instrument?
What’s driving this ennui? Are we fighting hormonal imbalances and shifts brought on by perimenopause and menopause? Is this a mid-life crisis? Are they the same thing? Does it matter? Should we treat these symptoms, make life-altering decisions driven by our unease, or lie down and hope it passes?
Louann Brizendine, psychiatrist and author of The Female Brain, sees this trend as part of the female’s changing brain. During perimenopause, less estrogen is produced, yielding less oxytocin. Oxytocin is the feel-good hormone. It is responsible for the desire we have for showing and receiving love. Hugging, massages, and sex are all ways in which oxytocin gets released.
So, what happens when we lose our fertility? Levels of oxytocin drop significantly, our ‘mommy brain unplugs’, and we lose interest in taking care of others. Boom; our divorce lawyer is on speed dial. As a matter of fact, the ratio of women to men filing for divorce is 3:1 after menopause.
“the U shape, lets me know that good times are on the horizon”
Facing severe changes in your emotional equilibrium can be terrifying. Should you go to your doctor and tell them you have a severe case of ‘filing for divorce’? Is this a treatable symptom of menopause? Or, is this our opportunity to course correct and ask the BIG QUESTIONS while we can still effect change? Maybe the answer is; we lie down for a little while to make sure the feeling doesn’t pass. We make the known changes to take better care of our bodies and minds. Nutrition, supplements, exercise, friendships, HRT – all can be choices to explore. And as I said before, the U shape, lets me know that good times are on the horizon.
Luckily, I’m not in any danger of divorce, given I’m single. Guess I’ll continue to take my supplements, exercise, and practice guitar while I wait for the upside to my U.