The Happiness U-Curve

There was an analysis done by the Brookings scholars Carol Graham and Milena Nikolova, drawing on Gallup polls done in 2013, that shows a clear relationship between age and well-being in the United States. Respondents to the polls rated their life satisfaction relative to the “best possible life” for them, with 0 being worst and 10 being best.

The happiness u-curve

U-Curve

The result was a U-shaped curve, with the low point in happiness being between 43 to 47 around.  We start out as being very happy and carefree in our teens, but with the increasing responsibilities of the 20’s & 30’s, our degree of happiness decreases.  And when the “midlife crisis” hits us sometime in our 40’s, we look at our life and wonder, Is this all there is to it?  This feeling ends about 10 years later, when we look at our life again and say, Hey, actually, this is pretty good.”

And surprising, it’s quite true.  I have begun to feel again the sense of adventure that I recall from my 20’s and early 30’s. I wake up excited about the plans ahead rather than the decades past.   I am picking up the sports and hobbies that I never had the time before, and planning my travel, outdoor adventure, and fitness bucket lists.

In another study conducted by a Stanford University psychologist team in 2011, they found that “the peak of emotional life may not occur until well into the seventh decade”. They discovered that most people during their 40’s felt that they never lived up to their expectations; never good enough in terms of social competition.  But when they turn 60, they start to ” feel so privileged”, and “to feel it now.”  As people age and time horizons grow shorter,” they write, “people invest in what is most important, typically meaningful relationships, and derive increasingly greater satisfaction from these investments.”  Also,  “when the future becomes less distant, more constrained, people focus on the present, and we think that’s better for emotional experience. The goals that are chronically activated in old age are ones about meaning and savoring and living for the moment.”

So, I am looking forward to our “golden years” when our degree of happiness will be going up!

Source: The Real Roots of Midlife Crisis in The Atlantic

Finding Time for Adventure

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Jebel Shams, Oman

For many of us who are old enough to consider retirement, the scarcest resource in our lives is probably not money, but time.

Life, they say, is what happens while you are busy making plans. Time is ticking away, life is short. These days, everyone is saying how busy we are.  But, as we all know, we all have the same 24 hours as everyone else, and it is up to us to prioritize how we want to spend our time doing the things that we want to do.

When we were younger, we only had a few weeks of vacation each year to plan for vacation and/or trips, typically 2-4 weeks at a time. Now, once we retire, we can choose to go on super long trips such as 2 months, 6 months, or even years at a time.

Many people delay their retirement for a variety of reasons.  They want to be conservative in their finances to ensure that money will never run out, or that they think they enjoy their work as compared to no specific plans, hobbies, activities or adventures after retirement.  They like their status quo. This sentiment is easy to understand, but whenever I hear about some friends developing critical illnesses or some famous people who just died on the news, it makes me want to take action for some big adventures.  Here is an interesting grave stone marking that speaks to this (Brandon Lee’s grave in Seattle):

“Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. And yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, or five times more? Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”

And here is a website that calculates when you are likely to die, based on various parameters about our life (age, weight, gender, whether you smoke) – www.deathclock.com.   A big, unstoppable clock counts down the remaining seconds of our life.

This type of thinking is morbid, but it takes deadlines to spur most of us into action.  This non-extendable deadline is scary, as there is still so much I want to do before September 14, 2042.

There is no solution to make more time.  Money cannot buy more time.  But learning about my “Expire Before” date will help me decide not to waste any more time on unimportant things, and to take action on some new possible adventures.  We need to begin the conversations with the people in our lives – our family, our boss, ourselves – about ways in which it might be possible to pause the daily rhythm of lives long enough to do something different and really memorable.

One of reason why I like traveling to new places is that it makes me more aware of how much time I have.  I really don’t have any more time, but I have just freed it up to spend it on the things that I truly feel is important to me. I wake up excited, as the day is available to explore and experience something new.  And the day stretches long into the night.  I might meet some new people along the way, learn about new cultures and world heritage sites, visit some world wonders, or hike a mountain to see some wonderful vistas.

When I am away on trips, I do not feel busy, but my days are full and fulfilling.  I cherish spending that time.  At home my days feel short, hurried, and too routine.  At the end of most of those days, I feel I have not accomplished much that is really memorable.

I hope this post will urge you to fill your days with what feels important and worthwhile to you, not with the stuff that conventional society deems us to be doing, or with stuff that might be easy and uncomplicated but is not meaningful and rewarding in the long run.

The Fun and Health Benefits Of Playing Badminton

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My wife and I enjoy playing badminton a lot.  It is a great game that requires agility, speed, power, hand-eye coordination and stamina. It is an easy game to learn the basic skills, but it gets quite technical for an advance level of playing.  There are many fine skills to master.

I picked it up initially when our kids started to play when they were 8 & 6.  I would hit and rally with them to give them practice.  Soon, they surpassed me as they advanced to the provincial and national level of competition in their age groups.

My wife picked it up only about 5 years ago.  After a few months, she got hooked into playing more and more.  She started taking some lessons, and we played some internal club tournaments.  Now, we are playing 3 to 4 times a week, and we challenge ourselves to improve as we started to play more age-group and master level tournaments.

Here are some health benefits of playing badminton from an article in a Men’s Fitness magazine I read a few months ago:

1. The Easiest Way To Reduce Weight

Playing Badminton for an hour helps in burning 480 Calories (the highest among all sports) and if you make a habit of it then you can lose a bare minimum of 4 kg within a month. Badminton as a sport is very exhausting and makes use of almost every muscle in the body, while running for the same amount of time burns half the calories.

2. Helps In Muscle Toning And Maintaining Your Physique

Be it a smash or a drop, every shot in Badminton is a mini figure-toning workout. So, if want to cut down all the flab around your waist before prepping those abs, then half an hour of this game daily is sufficient to achieve the results. It is great for calves, butt, quads and hamstrings.

3. Improves Your Metabolism Rate

Badminton helps in improving the cardio-pulmonary function which in layman terms means that it makes your body habitual of sweating naturally. The toxins leave the body through heavy sweating and make you feel light headed and burden free.

4. Perks Up Reflexes, Intelligence And Productivity

Practising the sport makes you more alert and helps you concentrate on the work at hand. It makes you more agile and develops strength to endure physical stress.

5. Helps In Achieving Optimum Heart Function

Often the walls of our heart get clogged due to high levels of Cholesterol. Badminton strengthens the heart muscles and even people with pre-existing heart condition can benefit with proper medical supervision.

6. Increases The Bone Density And Makes You Stronger

Playing badminton helps in the growth of those cells which form bones and help in accumulating the calcium matrix which strengthens the overall physical appearance.

7. Decreases The Chances Of Getting Diabetes

Badminton helps in getting enough physical activity within an hour to decrease the blood sugar levels. It decreases the overall production of sugar by the liver and which makes you less susceptible to diseases.

8. It’s A Definite Cure For Hypertension

Reducing the effects of hypertension without medical drugs is a hassle as the patient becomes addicted to those drugs. Badminton lowers the blood pressure and produces chemicals which counter the drug’s addictive properties.

9. Improves Lung Function

Badminton improves lung function quite significantly and helps in reducing the dependence on nasal sprays for snoring while sleeping.

 

Travel with Purpose

family tree

It is always nice to be able to travel with a specific purpose in mind. It can be to attend a conference, to participate in a sporting event, to meet a family member or a friend abroad, or to attend a world class festival or watch a major sporting event.

I have traveled on several trips to research on, and to meet new extended family members, while doing my “family tree” project.  My first trip with that purpose is to New Zealand and Australia in 2007 with my two older sisters to meet over 100 extended uncles, aunts and cousins, who immigrated to that part of the world while the majority of us immigrated to Canada.  It was an amazing discovery trip to enable me to expand our family tree from about 150 to over 300 members. I did not realize that I have so much connection to New Zealand.  This trip laid the foundation that allowed us to plan a huge family reunion event in Vancouver in 2008 with over 130 attendees, and expand the family tree to over 480 members at present.

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Large family dinner in Sydney, Australia

Another trip on this “family heritage” theme was in 2010 when a group of Vancouver and New Zealand family members traveled to Balingzhuang village in Guangdong Province of China to visit our ancestral village.  The 6 houses that our grandfathers built are still standing, and we met family members there that still remember to exact details of our parents’ time there.  They reminisced about the good times, and we paid respects to the older generations.  A year later, we brought our two adult children back to this village so that they are aware of their cultural heritage.

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Family photo, at the Balingzhuang ancestral village, near Guangzhou, China

In 2014, I went on an amazing trip to South America to hike Mount Roraima and Angel Falls.  As part of this trip, I flew to Paramaribo, the capital city of Suriname, to visit another branch of my family tree.  With modern technology, I was able to make contact with them via social media ahead of time (QQQ & weChat), and we made arrangement for them to pick us up at the airport, and then visit them over a two-day period.  It was very interesting to learn about their immigration stories, and their way of life in this small South America city.

Inside kitchen area, again explaining to them about our family tree.
At the back of their restaurant in Parimaribo, Suriname, I was trying to explain to them about how we are all related

These are the type of travels that are really interesting and purposeful.  I hope to do more of these in the years to come.  With our love of playing badminton, we will try to incorporate some tournaments in our travels as well.