How to Live a Happy Life in Middle Age

“Oh no, I’m middle-aged!” It happens just like that. One day you are 18—invincible, supple, your whole life ahead of you—then suddenly, you’re 38. It feels like just yesterday I was dressed in all black drinking Pabst tallboys, skulking around campus with my cronies making mischief under the cover of night. Now, at 10:30 pm on a Friday, I am excited to crawl in bed and watch a movie—and that’s okay because life is fleeting.

The only thing we know for sure is that we are born, we pay whatever government we live under some type of taxes, and then we die. The reality of time becomes more evident as we get older. Then one day, we are no longer able to ignore the internal clock, winding down each moment of each day towards our inevitable end… where’s the happy life gone?

Can We Still Live a Happy Life in Middle Age?

When you are young, it’s easier to live life to the fullest. After all, #YOLO is the mantra of an entire generation of 20-somethings. The hope is to squeeze every second of the day for what it’s worth, creating an endless stream of priceless memories. Yet, as you age, something changes. It becomes easy to lose that grand view of life as a place of “boundless wonder” and get bogged down in the quicksand of bills, meetings, and production goals. The realities of adulting combined with the visible physical changes in the body can make anyone less bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

TV and movies would have us believe that the minute we realize that we are middle-aged, we will immediately fall into a state of midlife crisis. They would have us believe that the reality of change, evolution, and the fleeting nature of this precious existence would send anyone into an anxious thought spiral that could only be cured by suddenly getting a tattoo, buying a motorcycle, cheating on your partner, or moving to a new country.[1] Yet, the contrary is true.

It is possible to experience happiness and cultivate personal peace in your middle age. If you want to have a happy life in your middle age, here are a few things you should keep in mind:

1. Don’t Believe the Hype

Living a happy life is not something reserved for the young or elderly. There is no mandatory breakdown required when you hit 45. Experiencing a midlife crisis is not inevitable. What is inevitable is change and transition.[2] If you give in to all the negative propaganda about becoming “middle-aged,” you may rob yourself of the opportunity to have your own experience.

The adage is true: “You attract what you focus on.” If you’re focused on how bad middle age will be, that is what you will attract. However, If you are focused on self-improvement, cultivating personal peace, and fostering comfortable detachment, then you minimize the brain’s ability to ruminate on anything, let alone the idea that there is an inevitable impending crisis, nightmarishly triggered by age.

2. Learn How to Live With Change and Appreciate the Small Things

Everything is constantly changing. No day is like the last, nor will it be like the next. You have a choice: you can either rage against it or embrace it. The truth is that you don’t have to fear change or the unknown—neither is worth your fear. If you can learn to accept the mere fact that everything is constantly in flux, then you will be better able to handle life itself.[3]

There is an inevitability to the changes that humans experience as they age. Your physical appearance, your body, even your cognitive function will change over time. You watch the world around you “grow up,” and you’re once again given a choice:

  1. Obsess over the never-ending demands and constant change that comes with adulting;
  2. Ignore the obvious changes happening in and around you, like an ostrich with your head in the sand; or
  3. Accept and facilitate the change because you recognize that it is unavoidable, and you’ve begun to make peace with the inescapable nature of it all.

Change is like a river current, the more you rage against it, the more exhausted you become. No matter how hard you try to resist it, the current will always win and carry you away with it. However, if you are wise, you will use the current to your advantage. You will allow yourself to relax into the flow so that you can get to where you want to go quicker. Surrendering to the current of change is key to happiness during middle age.

Learning to appreciate the small things is an act of surrender and self-love. In his acclaimed book, “Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life,” Tich Hat Nhan, discusses the secret to cultivating personal peace through developing an appreciation for the ordinary everyday activities and moments that are often overlooked. Tich suggests that if you can get connected to the world around you through mindful acts—no matter how small—it will lead to an improvement in the quality of your daily lived experiences.

Surrendering to the magic of the present moment counteracts and neutralizes the fears that arise from focusing on the unknown.

3. Work Through Your Stuff So You Can Be Yourself—Unapologetically

The old saying “wherever you go there you are…” is truer today than ever before. No matter how much technology is developed, how much you travel, or how many hours a day you busy yourself, your mind is your constant companion.

You can’t escape your mind. If there are heavy things—things you still have not taken the time to confront, demons you haven’t slain, or a closet full of skeletons you haven’t opened—they could be a barrier to that peace and happiness that you deserve.

It’s time to retire your representative. Being brave enough to put in the work to get through your stuff is exhausting. When you begin that work of self-improvement in earnest, you will not have the energy to do anything but be yourself—unapologetically. There’s no need to hide your quirks, blur your boundaries, or compromise your peace of mind. There are no representatives required.

Final Thoughts

Everyone wants to experience a happy life at all ages. No one wants to feel helplessly doomed to experience a terrible crisis just because they become middle-aged. Just thinking of the ordeal it would be could feel like the darkest night you’ve ever experienced without the hope of light. But as William Ernest Henley suggests, you must embrace your unconquerable soul, take the reins of your life journey, and trust that you are the master of your fate and the captain of your soul.

You do not need to give your power away to society’s foregone conclusions about aging or unsubstantiated fears of the unknown. You have the power to dictate how your life will go, so don’t believe the hype, embrace change, appreciate the small things, work through your stuff, and just be yourself.

More Tips on How to Live a Happy Life

Featured photo credit: Artem Beliaikin via


[1] GoodTherapy: Midlife Crisis
[2] GoodTherapy: Midlife Crisis
[3] BBC: Why embracing change is the key to a good life

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