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Do people get happier as they get older? What role does contentment play in it?


  • Do we keep a piece of sunshine in the corners of our hearts, ready to remind us of days past?
  • Do we mark our faces with laugh lines from triumphs, with lines from suffering and tears from sorrows?
  • Will we see the sunshine, laugh lines and lines from our suffering as something beautiful when we are older? 

Bodies of research dedicated to study human happiness seem to agree that life satisfaction has an upward trend as people reach adulthood and our natural life transitions and events play a big role in that.

What is the role of being content in happiness in adulthood? 

Contentment is acknowledging that our material and non-material possessions are sufficient and we are at peace with our current situation.

Studies have shown that as adults reach midlife, their happiness slowly increases. Midlife is marked with:

  • More stable relationships, family and friendships become more meaningful
  • Access to better finances
  • A growing career
  • Marriage
  • Volunteer work
  • Goals with a bigger purpose than themselves

While happiness may mark grander achievements in life, contentment is the more subtle and gentle kind of happiness and satisfaction. Contentment lasts longer and sustains the positive feelings of happiness. Popular playwright Oscar Wilde reflects this when he said, “"True contentment is not having everything, but in being satisfied with everything you have."

Differentiating Complacency from Contentment

Is a contented life similar to a complacent life?

Complacency may show in our lives when we are not aware of circumstances that put us in our situation (dangerous or otherwise) but we are happy with where we are. We are passive and go with the flow of life.

On the other hand, contentment happens when we are aware of our circumstances and actively affirm our decisions. Our intentional choices give us peace, and we are where we want to be. 

Do you ever notice how achieving success at a certain level makes us desire to climb up another level of success? And we drive ourselves to the cycle of achieving and wanting to climb higher. 

Contentment allows us to anchor our happiness to what we already have, rather than succumbing to the pressure of more and more achievement. 

Benefits of Contentment

  • Barrier against storms of life

Life is a mixed bag. We encounter triumphs as well as challenges and disappointments. As we develop contentment, we have an anchor to stabilize our perspective. When we understand that we all go through and are capable of surpassing these life events, we steady our mind to hope for better days ahead. 

  • Radiating your contentment to others

When we are in the presence of someone who is content, and at peace, we naturally become drawn into that person, without even knowing or fully understanding why. They just have that infectious energy of positivity around them. It makes us curious to see a person whose life is not perfect by any means, but they have the capacity to be generous to others. 

It is encouraging to know that getting older is also a chance to develop our character. Nurturing the attitude of contentment requires practice and patience. It requires us to self-assess, learn to accept our circumstances while showing self-compassion, and still continue to walk towards our personal goals. 

May our days still be filled with wonder and laughter, as George Bernard Shaw simply puts it this way, “You don't stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.”

Check out an extensive list of available mental health related careers and find the right job opportunity for you! 

Do people get happier as they get older? What role does contentment play in it?
Brandon Resasco