The first few decades of a person’s life tend to follow a somewhat predictable pattern. As a child, the world is an endless source of wonder. In your teens, you’re figuring out why you’re going to become. In your 20s, you’re pursuing your passions. And by the time you’re in your 30s, you’re finally getting the hang of this whole adult thing. However, by the time 40 rolls around, many people find themselves suddenly terrified of what’s to come.
As philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said, “The first forty years of life give us the text: the next thirty supply the commentary.” And while hitting 40 can’t be all sunshine and roses, it’s hardly the end of the world, either. Before you start fearing what’s ahead of you, discover these 40 things that nobody tells you about turning 40. And to find out why hitting the big 4-0 shouldn’t be so scary, discover The 40 Best Things About Being in Your 40s.
Your social circle gets smaller.
Blame it on spouses, kids, or the increasing pressure from work, but your social circle is bound to dwindle when you’re in your 40s. While your close friends probably won’t disappear altogether, those friendly acquaintances you used to call up to get a drink with upon occasion are likely to fall by the wayside.
Gray hair is practically inevitable.
Even if your hair has managed to maintain its natural color throughout your 30s, don’t expect it to last much longer. In fact, research published in the British Journal of Dermatology reveals that between the ages of 45 and 65, 74 percent of people develop gray hair. Of course, there’s no shame in opting for some dye—one study suggests that up to 75 percent of American women color their hair, and the numbers are on the rise for men, too. Even if you can’t ward off the grays, you can still dial up the style with these 15 Men’s Haircuts for Looking Instantly Younger.
Your temperamental back becomes your daily enemy.
You might be in great shape or stretch every day without fail, but if you’re over 40, experiencing back pain is virtually inevitable. Worse yet, it’s often hard to pinpoint what causes it: you’ll go to bed one night and suddenly wake up and feel like you can’t stand up straight. However, if you’re feeling suddenly hobbled over 40, you’re not alone—one study from the UNC School of Medicine reveals that up to 84 percent of adult Americans polled experienced back pain, up from 73.1 percent just over two decades earlier. Fortunately, you can pave the path toward a pain-free life by discovering How to Conquer Lower Back Pain Forever.
Your values become non-negotiable.
Earlier in life, you’re still figuring out what your core values are. By the time you’re in your 40s, you know what you believe in, what’s important to you—and most importantly, you won’t stand for anything less.
Your embarrassment reflex turns off.
Those things that used to embarrass you—bad dates, faux pas at work, or just ruminations about how weirdly you danced at that party—seem pretty inconsequential by the time you hit 40.
If you’re single, you get a ton of relationship advice.
For many people, hearing that somebody is over 40 and single sounds a lot like a request for advice. If you aren’t married or living with a significant other by the time you reach your 40th birthday, prepare for a whole lot of unsolicited offers to set you up—or tales about how people you know still managed to find someone to love them, despite their supposedly advanced age. If you find yourself mateless after you pass 40, you may want to console yourself with the 40 Reasons Why Being Single in Your 40s is the Greatest Thing Ever.
Wrinkles blindside you.
No matter how many anti-aging creams you’ve spent money on or how many times you’ve tried to avoid crinkling up your face when you laugh, if you’re over 40, count on wrinkles appearing as if out of nowhere. And if you want to turn back the clock, start with these 40 Ways to Look Younger After 40.
You’ll be amazed how easily you can walk away from bad relationships.
While you may have once been willing to suffer through dinners with friends who talked about themselves ad nauseam or family members intent upon asking you if you’ve gained weight, your patience for these relationships will have waned significantly by the time you it 40. Don’t be ashamed by your lack of willingness to put up with these toxic influences, though—you’re better off spending the next 40 years without them, anyway.
Junk food hits you like a ton of bricks.
Back in your 20s, eating a bag of tortilla chips or half a pizza for dinner was no big deal. By the time 40 rolls around, however, you get nearly as bad a hangover from food as you would from booze. Your digestion tends to slow down as you reach middle age, meaning those unhealthy meals not only hit you harder, the effects also stay around for longer.
Getting adequate sleep is a top priority.
If you’re a typical American, you’re likely getting too little sleep. In fact, research suggests that the average American only clocks 6.8 hours per night in bed. And while you may have woken up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after just a few winks a decade earlier, getting an inadequate amount of sleep in your 40s can ruin an entire day. And when you want to wake up more rested, practice these 20 Nighttime Habits Guaranteed to Help You Sleep Better.
Your fear of being alone subsides.
If you’ve made it into your fifth decade unscathed by flying solo, why should you start to fear being single now? In your 40s, you’ve not only learned that being single isn’t the end of the world, you’ve grown to downright enjoy your own company.
Your inhibitions wane.
You have decades of practice trying new things under your belt by the time you hit 40, meaning that you’re likely to experience a newly inhibition-free existence. So long, indecisiveness and sex with the lights off.
A surprisingly small amount of alcohol produces a major hangover.
Eyeballing it felt like a safe bet regarding alcohol portion sizes back in the day, but as a 40-something, you know better. In fact, your body definitely knows the difference between when you’ve poured yourself a five-ounce glass of wine and when you’ve decided to go for Big Gulp size—and you definitely pay the price the morning after.
You get comfortable in your own skin.
Those years you spent hating your body are likely to be (mercifully) behind you by the time you’re in your 40s. While you may not look like you did in your 20s, your body bears the smile lines, stretch marks, and ill-advised tattoos of a life well-lived, and you’re not ashamed to show it off.
You discover there’s a supplement for everything.
Back in the day, you took three kinds of pills, and not even with any regularity: multivitamins, antibiotics, and headache medication. However, in your 40s, you’ve got a supplement for your skin, one for your heart, another for your vision, and a handful more to keep your bones from disintegrating on you.
Your preference for experiences outweighs your desire for fancy things.
Is having a luxury car in your driveway or an expensive purse on your arm? Yes, but as you enter your 40s, you’ve realized that the joy these possessions bring is short-lived. Instead, you know that experiences always make you happier than things in the long run. And when you want to make the next few decades extraordinary, check off these 40 Best Bucket-List Experiences for People Over 40.
Your joints make noise for no discernible reason.
You can’t remember exactly when the change started, but know your knees definitely didn’t sound like a creaky barn door in your 20s. In your 40s, your joints ache, creak, and give out altogether upon occasion—in fact, research from the CDC reveals that 30 percent of the adult population in the United States experiences some form of joint pain.
Losing weight is no longer a simple proposition.
At 20, you could turn down dessert in the evening and wake up five pounds lighter the following day. However, in your 40s, your metabolism seems to be slowing to a crawl, no matter what you do to stop it, meaning that it takes twice the time and a seemingly endless amount of effort just to get the scale to budge.
People start coming to you for advice.
40 doesn’t feel old to the people who’ve hit it. That said, to younger people, you seem not only older, but wiser. They don’t know that you’re still figuring out how to make an omelet and do your taxes, after all.
You suddenly have a dozen creams for different parts of your body.
There’s your eye cream, the one you use on your neck, the one you put on before bed, the one that moisturizes your suddenly-dry elbows, and all those prescription ones from the dermatologist that are supposed to take care of the surprising skin ailments you didn’t realized were going to afflict you.
You stop sourcing your style from celebrities.
The thought of buying an outfit because you saw it in a magazine may have once appealed to you, but your taste has evolved pretty significantly since just a few decades ago. Now you listen to your intuition when it comes to determining your own style, not the dubious advice of someone you’ll never meet.
People you know start dealing with serious health issues.
One thing few 40-somethings find themselves prepared for are the serious health issues that tend to crop up among their inner circle around this time. Whether it’s your parents getting older or your friends dealing with health issues like cancer or infertility, the first major health problem to affect your inner circle will likely hit you like a freight train.
Glasses become a necessary evil.
Even if your eyesight has always been good, chances are it will start to get a little less sharp in your 40s. The good news? According to a study from the National Institutes of Health, of the 14 million Americans with visual impairment, 94.4 percent of those between age 40 and 59 can correct the issue with glasses or contacts.
Virtual strangers get very concerned about your plans for a family.
If you don’t have children at 40–especially if you have no immediate plans to—get ready for a barrage of information from well-intentioned, if ultimately nosy friends and acquaintances. You’ll hear time and time again how Janet Jackson had a baby over 50 and how IVF is making it possible, even if you’ve never mentioned an interest in starting a family of your own. And if you do see a family in your future, make sure you know The Secret to Raising Healthy Kids.
People start to assume you’re less competent.
Unfortunately, even though 40 might feel young to you, there are some people who will consider you over-the-hill by the time you hit this milestone. In fact, researchers at Boston College have found that people perceive older workers as less skilled and productive than younger ones, so brace yourself for the first time a recent college graduate asks you if you know how to check your email.
Forgetfulness becomes a frequent issue.
As you hit your 40s, your body isn’t the only thing with a tendency to go a little soft around the edges. As you age, you’re more likely to forget where you parked, leave that cup of coffee you just made in the kitchen, or have a hard time recalling names of people you only met recently. The good news? According to research published in the journal Neuron, forgetfulness can actually be a useful memory consolidation tool, helping you maintain necessary information and ditch the extraneous stuff.
Getting a physical starts to be a nerve-racking experience.
While few people relish the opportunity to get poked and prodded by their doctor, it’s not generally a frightening experience—until you hit your 40s, that is. Every time you go for a check-up, you start worrying about a strange new freckle, what that glass of wine last night did to your liver, or whether your routine appointment will find something terrible you never anticipated.
And every doctor’s appointment is loaded with new tests.
Even if you just went in to get some medication for a sinus infection, don’t be surprised if you leave the doctor’s office hours later after a series of tests. In your 40s, every doctor’s appointment has some new medical test involved, as well as reminder after reminder to start scheduling those mammograms and colonoscopies.
It’s easier to focus on the good.
Earlier in life, it was easy to see all the things that were missing from your life: the six-figure salary, the great spouse, the big house, and the three kids you assumed you’d have by your 29th birthday. However, as you enter your 40s, you begin to appreciate the things you have instead of the things you’ve missed out on. And while others might call you middle-aged, you know there’s still plenty of time left for you to achieve all of those goals you set for yourself .
When you bend down, there’s no guarantee you’ll get back up.
Of course, not everything about being over 40 is so rosy. Case in point: your back pain and increased stiffness often mean that when you go to pick up a sock you dropped on the floor, you’re stuck in that position for hours.
Your sex life slows down.
If you’re in your 40s. don’t be surprised if your sex life isn’t exactly as hot as it was a decade or two prior. The good news? Research suggests that couples who have sex infrequently are no less happy than those getting some on a regular basis.
But the sex itself is better.
There is, however, a silver lining when it comes to those bedroom escapades. As a 40-something, you not only know what you want, you’re also likely less self-conscious than you were just a few years before, making it easier to enjoy yourself when you do have sex.
You no longer care that you don’t recognize the celebrities in magazines.
At 30, realizing that there were thousands of popular celebrities out there who were not only younger than you, but who you couldn’t pick out in a lineup, was apt to trigger a mini meltdown. In your 40s, you don’t care if your friends’ kids look at you like you have three heads because you don’t know who Troye Sivan is.
Keeping up appearances is no longer as important.
Being popular or coming across as cool just isn’t as important to you as it once was. In fact, if you had to choose between having everyone like you and liking yourself, you’d choose the latter every time.
You’ve officially been upgraded to “ma’am” or “sir.”
When someone in a store is calling out, “Ma’am! Ma’am!” you may not turn your head immediately, but make no mistake: they’re talking to you. Long gone are the days when people referred to you as “miss” or “dude.”
Easy workouts start giving you some major day-after pains.
You used to be able to run five miles without a second thought. And while your stamina hasn’t necessarily decreased, the number of aches and pains you have after a pretty typical workout has increased exponentially.
Your friends start talking seriously about retirement.
It may feel as though you’ve just hit your stride in your career, but as your 40s progress, your friends are likely to start talking seriously about planning their retirement. So, if you haven’t already, it might be a good idea to start getting serious about those 401(k) contributions.
Your sense of urgency shifts.
Queen’s lyric “I want it all and I want it now” might as well have been written about you in your 20s. However, by the time your 40s rolled around, that sense that you needed to have everything figured out has waned significantly. In fact, you’re totally comfortable having a pretty long list of goals you’ve yet to achieve.
Your priorities change.
In your 40s, keeping up with the Joneses stops being the driving force in your life. You’ve figured out your priorities, whether your career, family, or personal happiness top that pyramid, and you aren’t about to change for anyone.
You don’t sweat the small stuff.
The worries and regrets that used to keep you up at night are now like water off a duck’s back. You know what your priorities are, you know who you are and what kind of person you want to be, and you’re not about to let something as silly as self-doubt stand in your way. And when you’re ready to make the most of this awesome decade, check out The 40 Best Ways to Conquer Your 40s.
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