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Cultivating Happiness in Mid-Life and WELLNESS by Nathan Hill

Cover of the book Wellness by Nathan Hill used to teach cultivating happiness in mid life.

It was the 90s. Liz Phair was singing in a grungy Chicago bar bursting with college co-eds. That’s when Elizabeth and Jack met and fell in love. Over the next twenty years, they settled down and started a family.


Things were fine. Good enough. Uninspiring. Jack envisioned becoming a famous artist but never progressed past an adjunct faculty job.  Elizabeth dreamed of conducting groundbreaking research but found herself in the science of placebos. A cynic might say she spent her life studying the effects of nothing. Their son was emotionally volatile, which caused concern.


In the 90s, Elizabeth and Jack were vibrant and passionate. By middle age, they were stagnant. Fad diets, cult-ish support groups, and polyamory were among their futile attempts to fight the continual rumble of dissatisfaction.


Elizabeth attributed this ennui to the U-shaped Happiness Curve, a theory suggesting that people are happiest in their 20s and again in later life – meaning that mid-life is the bottom of the U in terms of happiness.


Elizabeth’s mentor advised her: “Believe compassionately. Believe with curiosity. Believe with humility. And don't trust the arrogance of certainty.” This advice should be applied to her thoughts around the U-shaped happiness curve, as the theory is controversial.


Regardless of the cause, Elizabeth is in midlife and unhappy. Here are some tips on cultivating happiness in mid-life.


Shake Things Up: Learn new skills, develop fresh hobbies, travel somewhere different, and keep making friends. This helps people remain passionate and engaged.


Nurture Meaningful Relationships: Embrace the reality of caring for parents and children while maintaining deep relationships with colleagues and friends.


Live In the Moment: Use grounding and mindfulness skills to stay present in your work, family, and social environments. If worries arise, redirect thoughts to the here and now.


Create Healthy Habits: Engage in beneficial structure. For example, eat varied, delicious, and healthy foods you enjoy, engage in fun physical activity, and get adequate sleep.


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