Brain imaging research published in 2004 found that older individuals displayed reduced activity in their amygdala, the area of the brain associated with stress and emotional responses, when they were shown negative images. This could mean your automatic response to negative emotional stimuli can become more subdued as you age.
There are some caveats worth mentioning: When it comes to happiness, a lot of research on the subject that’s been conducted over time suggests that it generally follows a U-shaped curve, meaning that happiness is at a high when you’re in your 20s as well, before it dips in middle age and then shoots back up again in your late 60s. So, the retirement decade isn’t the only time you’ve reached your peak, so to speak. These points also don’t cover all of the theories surrounding aging and happiness, they’re just a few studies on the wide subject.
Additionally, the simple truth is that anyone can increase their feeling of contentment or self-confidence. Your age doesn’t necessarily dictate how joyous you are, but rather your habits do (and there are plenty you can practice to help you reach a state of bliss).
But, overall, the research is worth noting ― especially given the fact that many people think aging is a negative more than a positive experience. Just a little something to keep in mind if you’re dreading the number of candles on your next birthday cake.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.