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U-Curve Ahead

Yael Schuster

Studies have shown that when you hit your 40s, there’s a good chance your life satisfaction will take a dive. What’s behind this phenomenon — and how to use that painful low to rise again.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

In her 40s, Chani had it all: good health, a wonderful marriage, solid children, financial security. She’d reached the pinnacle of her career, promoted from teacher to vice principal to principal in a large, prominent school. She published a book on chinuch and spoke at schools around the country. Yet she couldn’t stop obsessing over her perceived failures. Even worse, the lack of gratitude she felt for her blessed life upset her to no end. She’d make lists of all the things she had to be grateful for, kept a gratitude journal, but the discontent continually gnawed at her. In her early 50s, her life took a turn. Her mother passed away, one of her children suffered a messy divorce, there were serious problems besetting her school, and she needed knee surgery. Yet surprisingly, her optimism and gratitude had returned. What was going on? Chani is a classic example of the happiness U-curve, a phenomenon discovered by journalist Jonathan Rauch. He delved into the research and published his findings last year in the Atlantic; the article took the Internet by storm. 

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