There are a lot of difficult and stressful things you can do to try and increase your resilience, creativity, and intelligence. But if you're looking for an easier path, you could also just go out and try to make friends from different generations.
Thanks to age sorting in schools, most of us start out in life mostly with friends who are about the same age as we are. Many of us continue that way for decades. But according to a boatload of science, if you make the effort to form bonds with those both significantly older and younger than yourself, you'll reap impressive benefits.
This is probably the least surprising benefit of intergenerational friendships. After all, it stands to reason that younger folks benefit from the wisdom and life experience of older folks and elders have much to gain from being exposed to young people's crazy trends and impatient dreams. And indeed this UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center article lays out a ton of research from the Big Brother Big Sister program, intergenerational tutoring, and even a 70-year Harvard happiness study that shows just that.
How can having friends from different generations make you more resilient? In short, by offering you a much longer perspective on whatever your current struggles may be, which can make setbacks feel less catastrophic and permanent.
"When something happens and you think this is the end of the world, having older friends who have been through something similar allows you to see people survive and thrive after these difficult events," coach Olivia James explains to Sunday Edit. It is also more difficult to compare yourself with friends in different life stages, which short-circuits the human tendency to competition and envy.
AARP research suggests this benefit flows both ways. In a recent survey, it found that 61 percent of those with significantly older friends claimed their intergenerational friendships helped them see other perspectives. Fifty-four percent of those with a significantly younger friend said the same. Around the same percentage of both groups (37 and 38 percent respectively) said their friendships help them appreciate their experiences more.
All of us, no matter how open minded we think we are, are subject to implicit bias. All this means is that, thanks to being exposed to predominant cultural messages about certain types of people, when we see these folks, negative associations automatically come to mind. This is true whether you believe these associations are true or not. You might be the most body positive person in the world, for instance, but it's likely that if you took an implicit bias test you'd more easily associate the word lazy with an overweight person than a skinny one. These biases can unconsciously impact our behavior.
You can't get rid of these biases completely but you can lessen them. How? Simply by spending time with real-life folks from these groups.
"Being around different people day to day changes those hidden connections in our brain. Which means that the more you can diversify the people in your life, the more likely you are to scrape away those implicit biases you might not want to hold onto," explains author Rose Eveleth on NPR.
"You want an open mind, you should have an open door," she quotes Harvard psychologist Mahzarin Banaji as saying. And that includes an open door for people of different ages with vastly different perspectives and life experiences.