A prettye middle-aged woman (Sam Edwards | Getty Images )

Sure, getting older has its downsides: That all-over ache after a great game of tennis, wrinkles that seem to pop up out of nowhere, and a gray hair you swore wasn't there yesterday. But research has shown that one thing nearly always tends to get better: Your attitude. And a new study offers insight into why.

Older adults tend to be better at dealing with emotional lows, finds research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Researchers interviewed 340 adults ages 21 to 73 who'd recently experienced stressful life events, and measured subjects' feelings of acceptance, anger, and anxiety towards the occurrences. The result:

Compared to younger adults, older people were more likely to accept stressful events and less likely to feel angry or anxious about them.

The phenomenon likely has a simple explanation: Older adults have had more practice dealing with unpleasant events, researchers say. "Having lived longer, older people have amassed more meaningful life experience, getting the chance to develop more wisdom, plus emotional skills that can be used in times of distress," says study co-author Amanda Shallcross, ND, MPH, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Denver.
Sounds nice in theory, but you don't need to be a sage to know that sometimes, accepting life's challenges is easier said than done (no matter how many candles you're blowing out on the birthday cake this year). Here, three tools to help you deal with the hard stuff:

Forgive. Whether it's your spouse, the friend you haven't talked to for six months, or even yourself, remember: Forgiving isn't forgetting. Instead, it's about letting go of the belief that things should be different--and you do it for yourself, not for the other person. "Once you forgive, your life literally changes. You think more clearly, your relationships improve, and even your immune system starts working better," says Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness.

Ditch "if-only" thinking. If only you didn't have arthritis, you'd be able to go skiing, right? Think again. "That mindset sets you up for failure," Lombardo says. Instead, reinterpret your own story: Given that you have arthritic pain, what activities can you enjoy now, and in the years ahead?

Live in the moment. When your mind wanders back to that awful date from the other week, take notice--and refocus. "Pay attention to your surroundings now. How you're feeling, what you're hearing, what you're smelling, all of it," Lombardo says. Because if you're thinking about right now, you can't be bothered by what happened then.