Modern psychologists agree: humans change as we age, not just physically, but socially as well.
Our “Big Five” personality traits tend to shift as we get older, according to a new study of some 50,000 people from the United States, Europe and Scandinavia, reports Business Insider. Those who identify with Neuroticism, Conscientiousness, Openness, and/or Extroversion eventually experience a decline in these categories. Those who said they are “Agreeable,” however, never really lose that.
Back in the 1800s, this wasn’t the case. The popular science was that our personalities were formed more concretely in our adolescence and is pretty much set by the time we’re 30-years-old.
Now, the data shows, that for each decade we survive, we become 1-2 percent less inclined to accept every invitation, less open-minded to new things, and have less of an obsession with fitting in (although, apparently we don’t mind so much being a people-pleaser).
In the U.S. more so than anywhere else, people are especially less likely to identify as Extroverted with age.
The advent of annoying ringtones, Twitter trolls, and the “YOLO” hashtag aside, the growing introversion may be a signal of the world’s physical health. As people live longer (Baby Boomers are expected to outlive the generation before), our instinct may be towards greater self-preservation. We simply can’t #YOLO everyday for 80-90+ years without feeling some of the karmic effects.
Or maybe it’s the popularization of yoga and other communal enlightenment practices that ought to be studied, along with our collective Happiness Index. The mind/body life is one that calls for shared introspection, and Scandinavian countries like Denmark and Norway topped that scale in 2016 due to factors like levels of GDP, generosity, social support, freedom, and corruption.
To practice: Spend a day living like you’re retired (if you’re already at the age of retirement, live this day more consciously). Wake up and go to sleep with the sun, practice a hobby, play with some children, do exactly what you want to do and then ask yourself if you feel more or less engaged. If you feel less engaged — detached, instead of non-attached (aparigraha) — ask yourself, What are the lifestyle changes I need to add to my bucket list? See if these fit in with your current personality traits, and whether they do or not, remember change may not be a bad thing.
DISTRICTiYOGA is an E-RYT 500 YACEP located in Washington, D.C. She often uses “namaste” as the first word uttered to students at the beginning of class, as well as the last. She began mindful yogic studies some 20 years ago in elementary school and began teaching formally in 2008.