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I'm a Midlife Researcher and Here's How I Finally Became Happy at 50

Investing in your own emotional intelligence can lead to a happier life, he says.

People often claim youth is wasted on the young, but for Chip Conley, entrepreneur, author, and founder of the Modern Elder Academy, true happiness and wisdom came with age. He's recently said that's because reaching the age of 50 allowed him to develop high emotional intelligence, which he feels is the secret to living a more fulfilled, joyful life.

"It sounds absurd, but at 63 years old, I can say that the last few decades have been a tale of two midlives: one very dark from my 30s- to -40s, and one truly splendid … starting when I hit 50," Conley wrote in a first-person opinion piece for CNBC.

RELATED: 8 Affirmations to Feel Ridiculously Happy Every Day in Retirement.

While penning his book Learning to Love Midlife: 12 Reasons Why Life Gets Better with Age—which officially hit shelves last month—Conley realized he had experienced a dramatic amount of growth in his emotional intelligence. So much so, that it impacted other parts of his life and became "a crucial ingredient for boosting happiness and resilience," he wrote for CNBC.

Emotional intelligence—also known as "emotional quotient" or someone's EQ—can be best defined as "the ability to identify and manage one's own emotions, as well as the emotions of others," explains Psychology Today.

Just like with any other skills in your mental health toolbox, sharpening your emotional intelligence allows you to reflect inward, acknowledge the present, digest whatever it is you may be experiencing, and arrive at a solution, such as in the form of a new healthy coping mechanism.

"Processing emotions means being able to recognize and acknowledge what you are experiencing emotionally, examining what is causing the emotions, exploring ways to solve emotional difficulties, and moving forward from the experience," psychotherapist Chris Rabanera, a psychotherapist and the founder of The Base EQ, previously told Best Life.

As Conley pointed out, higher emotional intelligence can result in stronger communal connections, deeper relationships, and the ability to better "emphasize with the emotions of others." These are all benefits Conley has seen play out in his own life.

"As I age, I've softened … and not just around my belly. I experience less ego and more soul. I feel more deeply for others' life circumstances," he wrote.

Now in his sixties, Conley says he has a wider breadth of compassion for others, is less emotionally reactive, and puts more value into his relationships.

While emotional intelligence requires being in tune with oneself, a large part of it also has to do with being cognizant of the feelings of others. For example, those with high emotional intelligence may exhibit "genuine curiosity about the emotional lives of those around them," Connor Moss, LMFT, a therapist with Pacific Psychotherapy, told Best Life.

"Asking questions rooted in genuine interest about how others are feeling and navigating their emotional worlds can expand your understanding and potentially deepen your relationships," Moss explained.

On the other hand, there is such a thing as low emotional intelligence. According to experts, those with a lower EQ tend to lack self-awareness, sensitivity, and good listening skills, and their capacity for empathy may be limited.

"A person with a lower EQ will not ask empathetic questions," James Miller, a psychotherapist and host of LIFEOLOGY Radio, previously told Best Life. "Instead, they will use facts and data to converse and often are blind to social cues."

The good news is you can always cultivate a higher emotional intelligence if you're willing to put in the work. Of course, this will also take time—but as Conley so eloquently points out, emotional intelligence grows with age.

Emily Weaver
Emily is a NYC-based freelance entertainment and lifestyle writer — though, she’ll never pass up the opportunity to talk about women’s health and sports (she thrives during the Olympics). Read more
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