Path to Successful Aging

Studies show that happy people are healthier people. Having a positive attitude has positive results.{{more}} Optimism, hopefulness, enthusiasm, engagement and other upbeat traits are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Happy people sleep better, produce fewer stress related hormones and have stronger immune systems.

So why aren’t we all jumping for joy? Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a happy pill or an easy-to-follow “Happiness for Dummies” instruction guide. We even have a hard time coming up with a simple definition of what happiness is. Most philosophers and therapists usually start with what happiness isn’t.

There is a world of difference between short bursts of pleasure and the deep contentment created by living a meaningful life. But how do we achieve that deep contentment?

According to many philosophers, happiness comes from harnessing one’s strengths to something greater, such as family, friendships, a cause or religion. Instead of medicating your blues away with bling and momentary pleasures, it is helpful to get in touch with your values and live with a purpose. The secret is honest self-awareness and seeing yourself for who you really are. Know your strengths and put those strengths to work in the service of others.

We all have met people who seem intrinsically positive or negative. We know that happiness is not genetic, but developing a positive attitude can become a kind of mental habit. The good news is that, with practice, we can teach ourselves to see the bright side of life instead of the dark side.

One factor that contributes to happiness is staying connected. Maintaining social connections can be accomplished through volunteering, entertaining, joining book clubs, taking classes or even playing games. Don’t let a perceived lack of talent stop you from embarking on an artistic pursuit whether it is a brand new interest or something you did in your youth. Yes, you may have disappointed your piano teacher, been told just to mouth the words by a choral director, or never won an award in art, but who is judging you now? If you love music, singing, or art, give it another try as an adult.

Here are a few simple secrets to being happy taken from “The World Book of Happiness” by Leo Bomans:

Accept what you have

Enjoy who you are

Don’t dwell on the past

Choose happiness

Surround yourself with supportive people

Stay curious and active

Don’t compare

Be yourself

Get organized

Think positive

The real secret to being happy is to realize that true peace comes when you recognize the gifts you have—gifts you can pass along to others.

Joanne Byrne served as Senior Services Coordinator for the Town of Orange. She is now actively and happily retired. Email her at to share your thoughts on retirement.