Mary Claire Orenic of California may just be “the happiest woman in America,” according to USA Today.
At 50 years old, Orenic is a senior manager at a global company. She has a husband she adores and a son on his way to college. She might put in 45 to 60 hours at her job during the week but unwinds on the beach on the weekend.
According to experts, Orenic exemplifies a high level of well-being for women in the 45- to 55-year old age group — the largest demographic in the U.S. today.
Gail Sheehy, a journalist and the author of the ’70s best-seller “Passages,” told ABC News that this group was in particular crisis.
“This generation of women at midlife has a lower level of well-being than any other generation,” Sheehy told ABC News. “It’s always been that [when] women got to their 40s and 50s, they were happier than at any other time in their lives. This generation is the most stressed and distressed.”
USA Today asked Gallup-Healthways to identify what contributed to well-being in the midlife age group.
In addition to a good marriage, a strong support network of friends and a positive attitude is important. Gallup-Healthways found that having a career and finding a good work-life balance also helped. For the most part, Orenic has all of this.
Pollsters said that many women at this midlife stage still worked full-time. Orenic said she had no plans to slow down.
“I need that fulfillment,” she said. “I’ve always worked. I’ve usually worked 40 hours. I think I’ll do that when I retire.”
Gallup-Healthways’ data also found that having a flexible work schedule and a short commute was also important for happiness in the 45-55 age group.
Orenic said that she worked from home, just steps from her kitchen, at least twice a week, and when she did go to the office, she drove against traffic.
“To drive an hour, sit in an office and do conference calls and email and drive home for another hour, I’ve lost two hours of productivity,” she said. Orenic said the flexible schedule also allowed her to devote more time to her family.
When she needed to miss a budget presentation to attend her son’s tournament, for example, her CEO allowed it. She can also enjoy a game of basketball with her son, dinner with her husband and children, and walks on the beach.
Healthways shared these three general tips to improve your well-being:
- Take 3 deep breaths: Doing abdominal breathing exercises in stressful situations — or twice a day — can help relieve your tension and make you feel more calm.
- Picture yourself in 6 months: Big resolutions can fail because they’re too unrealistic or vague. Small actions can make an impact if they’re a priority and you take daily steps to reach them.
- Create a gratitude list: Taking the time to regularly count your blessings by writing them down is a happiness booster and can improve physical health and raise energy levels.