One would think that as people age, they would tend to be less happy due to the many mental and physical issues that creep upon us as we age. However, researchers are finding the opposite to be true.
Research is discovering that older people tend to have more positive emotions, as well as the ability to more quickly self-regulate out of bad moods. Specifically, researcher Derek Isaacowitz (Northeastern University) postulates that older people are better at self-regulating themselves into better moods because they are better at focusing on the positive side.
Further, researchers believe that the ability to see things through a more positive perspective is linked to the way in which the brain processes emotion. Specifically, the emotion-processing regions (ventromedial prefontal cortex… and amygdala) and the memory-creation regions are more strongly connected in older brains.
Additionally, perhaps as we get older, and we become more confident and relaxed, we are able to more easily let go of things that bother us. We stop worrying about the little stuff and focus on the good things.
No matter the age, there is a very high correlation between positive mood and clear-thinking, creative problem solving. University of Western Ontario grad students, Ruby Nadler, Rahel Rabi, and John Paul Minda conducted a study on college students at their school, where the student volunteers were put in a certain mood (happy, sad, or neutral) and then given complex learning tasks. It was uncovered that those in a “happy” mood were much quicker at successfully learning how to accomplish their task.
Specifically, the students were shown music and video clips that either elicited happy, sad, or neutral feelings. Then, they were given complex tasks where they had to identify the patterns. The “happiest” audio clips in the study were peppy Mozart pieces and the “happy” video was that of a baby laughing.
Whatever makes us happy is a key ingredient for living a positive, clear-thinking life. The brassy trumpet sound of the Chicago Transit Authority Band in their songs, such as “Make me Smile,” makes me happy. In other words, whatever it is that makes one happy and steers us in a positive direction is the best medicine. In fact, it is Living Medicine.