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Published October 15, 2012, 11:40 PM

Happy days: Area women share their thoughts on most joyful times of their lives

Megan Havig is happy at her current age of 23 because the “world is at her fingertips.” “I love life, and it just keeps getting better,” said the Minnesota State University Moorhead student. “I’ve made mistakes, but you can’t have regrets.”

By: Anna G. Larson, INFORUM

Megan Havig is happy at her current age of 23 because the “world is at her fingertips.”

“I love life, and it just keeps getting better,” said the Minnesota State University Moorhead student. “I’ve made mistakes, but you can’t have regrets.”

When were you happiest? Some researchers believe the first answer that comes to mind rings truest.

“Saying the first thing that comes to mind doesn’t let people recollect – they have to give an immediate answer,” said Mark Chekola, a former MSUM philosophy professor who has studied happiness for more than 40 years.

The golden age for 70 percent of people is 33, according to a recent U.K. survey.

For Fargo resident Sadie Rudolph, her current age of 31 is her happiest because she recently became a mother.

“Becoming a mother has made me whole,” Rudolph said. “The love that a new child brings to your life is unexplainable.”

Satisfaction in her career and a supportive husband and family are additional reasons Rudolph said she feels “life is good” in her 30s.

The U.K. study’s results came as a surprise to Chekola. “It may be good that people are saying they’re happiest in their early 30s,” he said.

That certain point, or magic number of income, is $75,000, according to a 2010 study by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman and Princeton professor Angus Deaton. The study found that for Americans, a household income of $75,000 is desirable, and beyond that number, emotional well-being doesn’t increase. The researchers defined emotional well-being as the frequency and intensity of experiences of joy, stress, sadness, anger and affection that make one’s life pleasant or unpleasant.

“People have such a great tendency to think they’d be better off if they made more money, and it just isn’t so,” Chekola said. “If someone is very badly off, it (money) certainly makes a difference, but beyond that certain point, it doesn’t.”

What does make a difference is sociality, or social connections, he said.

“If you’re working all the time, how can you interact with family and friends?” Chekola said. “Things, in general, don’t pay off as much as activity that builds memories.”

For example, taking a family vacation pays off more in the end than remodeling a room in a house, and having an enjoyable hobby pays off more than watching TV.

“We have to fight the urge to think possessions and money equal happiness, and instead focus on activity with others,” Chekola said.

Money aside, some researchers conclude that people are consistently happy throughout their lives, while others argue that people have a set point of happiness, and they’ll never reach beyond that point, Chekola said.

For Havig, happiness isn’t something she believes will ever peak.

“My plan is to always be at my happiest,” she said. “Every year will be the best year.”

Generally, people in their 30s aren’t earning as much income as they will in their late 40s and 50s. People responding to the survey that they were happiest at age 33 “could mean there isn’t a great focus on needing more money to be better off,” he said.

The constant desire for more money is a significant problem in American society, Chekola said. Research shows that more money doesn’t necessarily mean more happiness, at least after a certain point.

Marjorie Schlossman, artist

Age: 57

When were you happiest? 57

Why? “I think it’s helpful when you know yourself better, and hopefully you do with age.

“By now, we’ve sought out our priorities – our passions – and we’re living them.”

Fran Akeley, Fargo resident

Age: 96

When were you happiest? Now, and 30s and 40s.

Why? “The most fun I had was raising my two daughters when I was in my 30s and 40s. I adored them, and I still do. Our house was a gathering place.

“With age, comes certain restraints, but life is good. I think happiness has something to do with your genes and your personality. When you have an accumulation of friends and family, life is especially good.”

Sara Watson, chef and owner of Mezzaluna and Mosaic Foods in Fargo

Age: 39

When were you happiest? 39

Why? “I don’t have any regrets, and I’ve learned some lessons. I’m sure I have more to learn.

“In your 30s, you kind of figure out what you like to do.

“I’m also enjoying my four kids being at the ages they are – 3 to 13.”

Rep. Kathy Hawken, Fargo

Age: 65

When were you happiest? 65; I’m happy at every age.

Why? “There hasn’t been a time in my life when I haven’t been happy. I try to be positive – I’m a glass half-full person. I’m happiest with my kids and grandkids.”

Margie Bailly, former director of the Fargo Theatre

Age: 67

When were you happiest? I’ve been happy at every stage of my life.

Why? “It’s really been about the journey. Happiness for me includes everything from successfully overcoming/dealing with life’s challenges to being embraced, protected, loved and appreciated by those near and dear to me. It includes the privilege of returning that love and appreciation.

“At this stage of my life, happiness is the joy of granddaughters close by. Sometimes I think it’s about contentment (sort of a rocking chair mentality), and then a new challenge or project comes into my life, and it’s ‘screw the contentment.’ Or maybe it’s the tape in my head of my mother’s voice saying, ‘You can’t rest on your laurels. Get moving!’

“I’ve certainly experienced sadness throughout my life, which makes the happiness that much sweeter.”