Six Ways to Find Lasting Happiness After 50

While turning 50 may be a milestone, we still have a good 30 years ahead of us, on average. It’s important to do what we can to keep ourselves strong, active and healthy—both now and for our futures. We know that there are lots of ways to improve and maintain our physical health, like playing a sport or weight training, but what about boosting our mental health and well-being? Is there anything we can do to support a healthy mindset?

You’ll be happy to know that the answer is a resounding yes! There are lots of small, simple ways to help ourselves feel happier and more optimistic well into our later years. Keep reading for six easy steps you can take.

Set your sights on achievement, not luck

Most of us believe that if something great would happen—like winning the lottery—we’d become instantly happier and stay that way forever. But the research doesn’t support that. While a positive event might make us happy in the short term, the happiness boost typically isn’t as great as we’d expect—and it doesn’t last that long, either.

So, rather than hoping for some “lucky” event, focus on those things that bring you a sense of real satisfaction or accomplishment. Think of a project you’d like to complete, or a skill you’d like to learn, and start working toward that goal. As you make progress every day, you’ll feel a real, lasting impact on your level of happiness. You might also meet new friends who have the same interest!

"Research shows that even for those who aren’t necessarily religious or spiritual people, practicing mindfulness and meditation brings a number of benefits, including stress management, better self-awareness and a more positive outlook."

Practice mindfulness and gratitude

What does your morning routine look like? If you’re a spiritual person, finding a way to express your gratitude and share your plans and hopes for the day can get you started on the right foot. Research shows that even for those who aren’t necessarily religious or spiritual people, practicing mindfulness and meditation brings a number of benefits, including stress management, better self-awareness and a more positive outlook.

Make plans

No matter what your day-to-day activities may be—working full-time, retired, volunteering or looking after grandchildren—it’s easy to become overwhelmed without a clear to-do list. Gain control over your day and feel a greater sense of purpose by making a list of exactly what you need to accomplish. You’ll feel more confident in your regular, everyday activities and, as a bonus, you’ll feel more capable of handling challenges and obstacles you weren’t expecting.

Feeling too busy to get organized? Don’t overcomplicate it. Start by taking a few minutes at the start of each day to jot down the most important things you need to get done that day. Just the act of writing down your to-do list can boost your productivity and give you a sense of accomplishment. 

Take time for breakfast

Did your mother ever tell you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Well, in a sense, she was right. Starting your day with a good, healthy breakfast can go a long way toward keeping stress in check and helping you stay focused and alert.

If your morning is too hectic to cook a “real” meal at breakfast time, make sure you have some healthy, portable breakfast options, like protein bars, to get your motor running first thing in the morning.

Whatever you choose to eat, make the ritual of eating breakfast part of your morning routine. Carve out time to sit down, eat slowly, focus your mind and think about the new day.

Remember the little things

Look for little ways to make those around you feel happy, for example:

  • Write a nice note and leave it on the bathroom mirror to give your spouse or family member a happy start to their day.
  • Instead of the obligatory “Happy Birthday,” spend an extra moment to write a personal message on social media or in a card.
  • Tell someone how much they mean to you.
  • Celebrate a friend’s success, or give them a real compliment.

Find a (new) reason to get up in the morning

Nearing retirement age doesn’t mean retiring from life. Many people find themselves renewing past interests, or even finding new hobbies and projects that make life more interesting. Look at each day as a gift, an opportunity to find joy and wonder in your life. Each morning, think of one thing that you look forward to doing that day. It could be anything: meeting up with a loved one, visiting a local library or museum, walking in the park or trying a new food. 

At the end of the day, spend a couple of minutes reflecting on your opportunities and your reasons to be joyful. 

No one said that getting older would be easy. Midlife and beyond is a time of both great challenge and great opportunity. Many of us have watched our children grow up and move out of our homes, and many more see our social lives changing as we enter a new stage of life. 

There’s no time like the present to start investing in your own mental well-being. You can feel happy and energetic. You can enjoy every day. You just need to make it happen.