How to be happy in midlife
Various studies have shown us that we’re at our unhappiest in middle age123. But rather than waste time mourning lost youth, why not make your middle years marvellous?
Here are seven easy ways to do it:
1. Don’t get stuck in a rut
Take up a new hobby, learn a new skill or travel to a country you’ve never visited before – shaking things up can give you a new lease of life. “Midlife is a time when we should embrace change and try things we’ve never tried before, pursuing an interest we may have abandoned over the years, or an ambition we always meant to fulfil,” says Marina Gask, journalist and co-founder of Audrey4, which encourages women who feel ‘stuck’ to give themselves permission to pursue their long-lost dreams. “Seeing the number of women in their 50s who are running marathons, launching businesses, getting books published and going backpacking round south-east Asia, I think there’s a real trend to ‘seize the day’ and take another bite of the cherry,” says Marina. “It’s all about deciding what the next chapter of your life is going to be.” (And, of course, this is as true for men as it is for women.)
2. Make new friends
Having a wide circle of friends will help your wellbeing in midlife, says research in the British Medical Journal5. If you find you have more time in midlife (perhaps because your children have grown up) it can be a good time to reconnect with old acquaintances or even make new friends. Joining a local group such as the Women’s Institute (www.thewi.org.uk), a book or tennis club is a great way to make friends. Or find a group to suit you via www.meetup.com, which specialises in bringing people together to enjoy activities in their area.
3. Maintain a positive outlook
It’s hard not to get bogged down by the trials of life when we hit our middle years, says Marina. “By this point we may find ourselves grappling with really difficult and exhausting challenges, from bereavement to relationship failure to ill-health or money worries, and the impact can leave us feeling less confident and more negative about our place in the world. It’s easy to wallow and give in to it, but actually taking action is far better, as this makes us start to see life in a more positive way – vital for our long-term mental health. We can retrain, learn skills and develop new interests, and doing so gives us a much more positive outlook, as well as a renewed confidence.”
4. Look outwards
Volunteering can shift your focus from your own life to that of others. According to the Mental Health Foundation: “Volunteering is a great way to do something for others and research shows that it benefits people of all ages through increasing feelings of self-esteem, respect, motivation and wellbeing.” There are plenty of organisations that need volunteers: local hospitals, schools, Girlguiding, Age UK – or try the Royal Voluntary Service for local opportunities.
5. Try a new exercise regime
Being fit in midlife has been proven to be one of the ways to lower your risk of dementia6 and other health problems such as heart disease7. For inspiration, try one of these.
6. See the bigger picture
Worrying about things that you can’t change is wasted energy. If you can, try to brush away your worries by looking at the bigger picture. Gaining a sense of perspective is one of the benefits of middle age for many people. That said, if you do have anxiety then don’t suffer alone. As a Benenden Health member, you can seek help from the 24/7 Mental Health Helpline.
7. Look after yourself
Try to find time to prioritise your own health and wellbeing. Take note of any changes to your body and see your GP if you’re concerned. Benenden Health offers health assessments, with special discounts for members. Booking one may help you know your body and current health situation a bit better. See more here.