Not many young adults are looking forward to old age (or even middle age) but they really shouldn't be dreading it either. There are plenty of things that improve with age — here are just a few of them.
There's evidence that suggests older people are generally happier than the young.
In his book Deep Work, author Cal Newport cites an interesting study, where a Stanford psychologist used a functional MRI scanner to observe brain activity in subjects exposed to both negative and positive images.
In the younger subjects, the amygdala (the emotional center of the brain) fired up for all images. In elderly test subjects, the amygdala only got excited for the positive images. It was as though, over a long and varied lifetime, they had trained their brains to filter out the negative and focus on the positive.
As Newport put it, "By skillfully managing their attention, they improved their world without changing anything concrete about it."
Young love is exciting, but is also often full of unsettling and even traumatic ups and downs — no one likes a bad breakup. As you mature, your relationship often matures along with you into something that's deeper, more satisfying and more stable.
While many young people find dating and relationships as a source of stress, those who are in stable marriages in middle age report higher levels of life satisfaction and lower levels of stress, according to a recent study.
In some ways, health belongs to the elderly — many young people don't live the healthiest lifestyle.
College life may include a lot of late nights, stress and alcohol. Preventative health (like eating right) and self-care seem to go out the window in your younger years. Some mental health issues like anxiety are more common in young adults and even things like allergies often improve as we age.
Youth can also be a time when we try and "do it all" and invariably overdo at least some of it. It's not unusual to hear people in middle age remark that they feel better than they did 10 years ago, perhaps as their children grow up, work situations become more secure and they become better at using healthy coping strategies to alleviate stress.
High school friendships can be full of angst. As Rosalind Wiseman puts it in her bestselling book "Queen Bees and Wannabees"
"Girls' friendships in adolescence are often intense, confusing, frustrating and humiliating, the joy and security of 'best friends' shattered by devastating breakups and betrayals."
As we age, most of our friendships become less intense, less fraught and almost completely devoid of the drama of high school. We also tend to develop the discernment and self-assurance we need to step away from the toxic friendships that don't support and inspire us, and spend more time with those who truly understand us.
This isn't a given, of course. Anyone can have a financial crisis at any age, but being young is often a time of worrying financial instability, working a couple of jobs and worrying about paying tuition. I don't know too many people who miss the time of minimum wage jobs, crippling college tuition fees and a total lack of experience when it comes to budgeting and personal finance.
Over time, we (hopefully) learn to take care of our money better. As we get older, get promotions, and learn more about managing money, our finances often steadily improve.
Not every aspect of aging is positive, but there are certainly advantages. It's worth taking time to appreciate them from time to time.