By your 40s, it may seem like you’re stuck in your ways. You’ve got the same habits—both good and bad—that you’ve been practicing for years, if not decades. But since your 40s are a time where your health, interests, your sleep, and responsibilities undergo significant changes, your habits should, too.
Though researchers recently determined that the “it takes 21 days to learn a new habit” theory is bogus (it actually takes an average of 66 days), what really matters if your motivation. If you’re willing to rethink the ways you have been living, it’s surprising how fast a person can change. So with that in mind, here are 40 habits you’re going to want to make part of your daily life from here on out. And for more on living your most active life, check out the 40 Best Hobbies to Take Up After 40.
Take Sleep Seriously
You’ve heard sleep is important (and no how miserable you can be when you don’t get it. But once you get into your 40s you might need to reassess how much sleep you are getting and whether you need to be better about following the “early to bed, early to rise” mantra.
“The quality of our sleep tends to go down with age, partly due to increased life stress and also due to hormonal changes that occur in both men and women over 40,” explains Ivana Chapman, fitness and nutrition coach and founder of the Lean365 fitness program. “Getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep will enhance your immune system, reduce stress levels, and optimize your recovery from exercise.” And for more on your body’s needs, consider the 40 Ways Your Body Changes After 40.
Ditch the Alarm Clock
One of the ways to ensure you are getting a proper sleep is to get by without an alarm clock. There are few more unnatural ways to wake up than with the screaming siren of a small mechanical device blasting in your ear. Instead, try to get in the habit of waking up without it, at a time when your body intuitively knows it’s time to rise. If you have trouble doing so, you might want to go to bed earlier or rethink your sleep habits. And for more help here, check out The Secret to Waking Yourself Up without an Alarm Clock.
“Training with weights two to four times a week builds muscle and maintains bone density,” explains Chapman. “It also makes it easier to maintain your weight, since a leaner body with more muscle is more metabolically active and burns more calories all day long.” And being physically active is just one way that Jane Fonda Stays an Ageless Wonder.
Drink More Water
Hydrating does all kinds of great thing for your health, mind, and body’s functioning, and only becomes more vital as you get older. Have a reusable water bottle close at hand throughout your workday. Drink at least a glass of water at every meal. Order a glass of water when you order a beer and try to drink them both before ordering your next (that’s also a great hangover cure).
Get to Know Your Local Farmer’s Market
These days, most cities have at least one farmer’s market, if not several. These are great places to go for fresh, and cheap, produce, and a great way to get your ideas flowing for meals you could make with seasonal ingredients. There’s also a good chance you’ll run into others who live nearby or with whom you have things in common. And for what to buy there? That’s easy: The 30 Best Foods for Maximizing Your Energy Levels.
Become a Healthy Snacker
Load up on nuts, dried fruit, granola bars, and other healthy snacks so that when your stomach growls, you’ll reach for something that won’t be slowly killing you. A handful of almonds or dried apricots are surprisingly satisfying when you’re still feeling a little hungry after lunch.
Eat More Protein
In conjunction with muscle-building exercise, you should also be in the habit of eating food that will help build your muscles. “Building and preserving precious muscle isn’t possible if you’re not taking in enough protein,” says Chapman. “Government recommendations are unnecessarily low, and don’t represent the amount of protein required for optimal health and muscle maintenance and growth.”
She urges that for maintaining and building muscle in your 40s, you should aim to get 0.8–1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day (e.g. a 170-pound person would need 136–170 grams per day).
Think More About Retirement
In your 40s, retirement stops seeming like a far-off goal and saving becomes more important than ever. You should use this time to look more seriously at your retirement plans and making sure you are actually on track to both have a comfortable post-work life and consider what you would do with that extra time.
“A comprehensive, year by year, plan (no ‘calculators’) will show you the direct impact your current decisions will have on your future,” says Drew Parker, who created The Complete Retirement Planner. “Because life constantly changes, your plan needs to be revised regularly (annually), making this a habit, not a one-time occurrence. Seeing your financial future in black and white is eye opening, and it’s a critical step in achieving financial security.” And we can help you out even more thanks to the 40 Ways to Save 40 Percent of Your Paycheck.
Get Serious About Saving
Speaking of retirement, in your 40s you should reassess how much money you are putting into your retirement account and boost it further. Take a deep dive into your expenses and find ways to cut as many of those out as possible (cancel those subscriptions you never use, get a cheaper internet package, buy the less-fancy cat food). You’ll be surprised how much further your money will stretch. And for more on savings tips, read through these 52 Easy Ways to Be Smarter with Money in 2018.
Make a Habit of Gratitude
There are no doubt plenty of things that annoy you throughout the day or are not exactly as you like them, but for your own peace of mind and long-term well-being, a habit of gratitude can prove hugely beneficial (as plenty of science has shown). Take a few minutes each morning or afternoon to review what is going well in your life and what you are happy about.
“Gratitude is a great habit that allows a person to appreciate the experiences they have had and that has made them who they are today,” Anthony Treas, a men’s health coach. “This is good for the heart and soul. A gratitude journey is a way to do this.” And for more on this, read the 5 Ways Being Thankful Can Change Your Life.
Have a Dedicated Self-Care Regimen
“If you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of the people who depend on you. The top leaders and most successful people in the world make fitness a priority,” says Marcello Pedalino, a fitness trainer, mindfulness coach and author of Celebrate Life. “They know that mental fortitude, determination, and discipline are all positive side effects of being in the best shape of your life. Sleep, nutrition, and exercise are the foundation and a consistent implementation of all three are paramount if you want to be ready for whatever life throws your way.”
This is a good habit at any age, but it’s critical in your 40s, when a daily sunscreen routine can make the difference between a smooth face or a Danny Trejo look. Find one with moisturizer to both protect you from sun damage and help fight off those wrinkles. And for some great celeb skincare tips, Here’s How to Get Meghan Markle’s Glowing Skin.
Handle Dark Circles
Besides wrinkles another common complexion problem that afflicts you in your 40s is the puffy dark patches under your eyes. You’ll want to make eye cream a standard part of your morning routine, helping keep you from looking like you partied too hard over the weekend and helping you to maintain a youthful glow. For more great skincare tips, check out the 20 Best Ways to Erase Wrinkles.
Manual toothbrushes have been consistently found to be less effective than electric toothbrushes. With the wide range of styles and price points now available with these electronic versions, there’s no excuse not to upgrade. Your teeth and gums will thank you. And for more on your dental health, here are 20 Secrets for Whiter Teeth After 40.
Have a More Active Bedroom
If you’re in a committed relationship, there’s a good chance the sex has tapered off a bit from your honeymoon period. Try to reignite the spark and make sex a nightly habit. Not only does it feel good—orgasms have been found to reduce stress and depression, increase your body’s immunity to infection, and help you burn some calories, too. So make more time for love. If you need help spicing things up, here are 30 Sizzling Games You and Your Partner Can Play.
Take More Time in the Bedroom
Just as you should be having more sex, you should also be going longer. Extend your foreplay, get candles and some music playing, introduce new positions and places. Get adventurous with your partner. Making a habit of getting more creative in the bedroom will strengthen your relationship and make you feel healthier, more relaxed, and more fulfilled. Here are 15 Ways to Make It Last (Much) Longer.
Have Monthly Date Nights With Your Goals
Just as “date nights” are great habits for taking a step out of the daily routines and responsibilities of long-term relationships, you want to do the same for your life goals. “Most people live life on autopilot and are not intentional about designing their life or being clear about how they want to live and be in every part of their life,” says Shefali Raina, executive coach at The Wall Street Coach. “When they hit their 40s, thoughts come up such as ‘is this all there is?’ ‘what do I look forward to?’ ‘what the F- am I doing with my life?’”
But by getting into the habit of reviewing your goals and how you are spending your hours, you will become more intentional in your daily life and be more likely to reach your long-term ambitions. During this “date night,” Raina suggests that you, “Think about you, and different parts of your life—social, financial, work, wellness, relationships, spiritual, personal development, emotional—and figure out where you are now, where you want to be, and get intentional about getting there.”
Keep Good Company
With increased responsibilities, you have less time to dedicate to friends and socializing, so it’s more important to make a habit of spending the time you do have with people who are going to enrich your own life. According to Pedalino, you can ask yourself about which group a given social connection falls into: a VIP (Very Inspiring Person) or a VDP (Very Draining Person).
“Go out of your way to associate with VIPs that will inspire you, empower you, and bring out the best in you,” he says. “Remove yourself from the company of VDPs, people that can come up with a problem for every solution.” He adds that this includes your online and social media interactions.
Spend Time with Meaningful Connections
“Our 40’s are when we are most engaged in our career and family,” says Deborah Heiser, a lifestyle consultant and founder of I.M.AGE and The Mentor Project. “Our time is tight and spending time with those who have meaning in our lives, who we feel most comfortable around, and who we can rely upon allow us to feel a sense of intimacy, trust, and rid ourselves of stress. So, spend less time with people who require energy and effort and more time cultivating deeper relationships with those we value.”
Nurture Your Tribe
“Science has shown that our social identity is a major part of who we are and deep, authentic social relationships contribute significantly to our happiness,” says Raina. “Any habits that bring energy and attention to our relationships are great. It could be connecting via text, or meeting bi-weekly for a meal, or doing an activity together. The goal is to nurture and reinforce the authentic relationships where we can show and be shown vulnerability.”
Laugh and Smile
You hopefully already do this, but as you get older, you may have lost some of your cheery disposition as you’ve aged and responsibilities have required you to get more serious. But getting into the habit of smiling when you enter a room and laughing easily and openly when you appreciate something is not only contagious—leading others to follow your lead and putting more positive vibes out into the world—it is also healthy for you, picking your mood up, reducing stress, and even improving your heart health.
Take the time to point out the things you like about others—friends, coworkers, cab drivers. Just a quick approving comment about someone’s shoes or the way they told a story or the work they are doing will leave both of you feeling better. Getting into the regular habit of handing out compliments like they are Halloween candy will also raise your own status in the eyes of those you’re speaking with.
When was the last time you took a trip? While saving is important, you should also be budgeting for some memorable travel at least a couple times a year. “Travel outside your zip code, travel outside your country, and most importantly, travel outside your comfort zone once in a while,” urges Pedalino. “Go see how other people live and learn from their culture. You’ll learn things like ‘you can actually make half as much money but be twice as happy.’”
Another habit that provides major benefits—mental, physical, and more—is meditation.
“Our world is far too fast-paced and there are far too many perceived threats in it for our amygdalas to manage,” says Jonathan DeYoe, author of Mindful Money and founder of DeYoe Wealth Management. “Remember, there was a time when we could be awakened by a saber-toothed tiger and we would have to defend our family from being eaten. Our brain is designed to be ready for that. This is why our ‘Loss-Aversion Sensors’ tend towards overreaction to perceived threats. Mindfulness practice can slow our natural reactivity and help us think through better solutions.”
Build an Emergency Fund
If you are on top of basic savings and spending goals (squirreling cash into your 401k, paying down your credit card), consider adding another worthwhile habit: setting aside some money into an “emergency fund” that would be there to rescue you if something seriously debilitating were to hit—a job loss, severe illness, or otherwise.
Timothy Wiedman, associate professor of management and human resources at Doane University suggests setting aside at least three months’ worth of living expenses for this.
“If you’d be temporarily eligible for unemployment benefits, figure the estimated amount of those benefits into the total amount of emergency funds that you’d need,” he advises. “Try to keep those funds in a separate FDIC-insured account that pays a decent rate of interest, but keep an eye out for any ‘strings’ attached to the account that might reduce (or negate) the advertised interest rate.”
“Sitting really is the new smoking because living a sedentary lifestyle increases inflammation and inflammation is the root of most chronic disease,” says Walter Gaman, co-author of Stay Young: 10 Proven Steps to Ultimate Health. “Most of the jobs that people in their 40s have call for heavy computer work. While your fingers may be going ninety to nothing, your large muscles are sitting stagnant.”
Get a standing or treadmill desk. Take microbreaks throughout the day to stretch or walk around the block. Do what it takes to avoid getting into sedentary mode.
Take Care of Your Gut Heath
While you want to eat wisely to help keep your weight under control, it’s not just the size of your gut that you should be concerned about.
“Eighty percent of your immunity is in your gut,” says Gaman. “Protecting your microbiome should be top priority. Do this by avoiding artificial sweeteners and increasing your intake of prebiotic and probiotic rich foods, like yogurt, sauerkraut, asparagus.”
Keep Technology Out of the Bedroom
In a few short years, smartphones have moved from novelty to new appendage for many. But as much convenience and entertainment as these devices provide, they can also be dangerous to our mental health and development of good habits.
“When it comes to sleep, 40 somethings are the worst,” says Gaman. “Most of their sleep disturbances come from overuse of technology—the blue light emitted from smart phones, computers, and televisions disrupt the natural circadian rhythm because it inhibits the production of melatonin. Avoid electronics two hours before bed and opt for a great novel instead.”
Spend the Morning Thinking Big-Picture
Another good reason to keep smartphones out of the bedroom: it will help you to stop checking your email first thing each morning. Once you’re in your 40s, you should be using those first minutes after you wake up to focus on your goals for the day, and think about longer-term hopes for the day and the weeks ahead—rather than immediately getting caught up in the latest news or a random text you received at night.
Schedule Fun First
You have your set work schedule and always add professional obligations and meetings to your calendar. But once you get into your 40s, it’s a good time to start considering whether you are making time for the things that really make your life meaningful.
“Most people in their 40s have schedules filled with things they barely want to do, or outright hate, like work, meetings, and appointments,” says David Bennett, a certified counselor and relationship expert who runs the website The Popular Man. “Start scheduling good things, like meeting friends, going on a hike, visiting a relative you haven’t seen in years, etc. You’ll find that if you start scheduling positive things, you do more of those positive things, and feel better.”
Confront Your Vices
Your bad habits are no doubt deeply ingrained by the time you are in your 40s, but by this time you also have a clear sense of the kind of damage and distraction they can bring to your life satisfaction. Now is the time to take a closer look at your behaviors and get impatient with your vices.
“If you smoke, drink more than you should (more than one drink for women and two for men per day on a regular basis), gamble excessively, use drugs, or struggle with other forms of addiction, it is critical to confront those bad habits and take action,” says Lisa Doggett, a family physician based in Austin. “The consequences of unchecked vices can increase with age, and reaching out to a physician, supportive friend, or other resources in the community can make a big difference.”
Make Preventive Health Care a Priority
“Rates of chronic disease increase significantly as we age,” Doggett adds. “Conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension can be detected early through routine medical visits, and early treatment reduces the risk of heart disease and other complications. Cancer rates also rise as we age, so screening tests become more important in our 40’s.”
Schedule annual (or semi-annual) physicals with your physician and be sure you are following the doctor’s orders.
Update Your Skills
Whatever industry you are in, by the time you are in your 40s, things have changed significantly since you started—and they will just keep on changing. To remain valuable in your work (and make you more attractive to future employers) you need to do what Srini Pillay, a Harvard psychiatrist and author of Tinker Dabble Doodle Try calls “Developing a re-skilling mindset.”
“Gone are the days when your basic qualifications and learning are enough. Learning has to be a lifelong process,” says Pillay. “And tinkering and dabbling will help to energize you by activating the explorer in you, while also helping you to discern what skill you next want to learn and develop.”
This might sound like the sort of thing you’d want to stop doing, and it’s true that just staring off into space when you should be working or doing work is not the most productive way to spend your time. But practicing what Pillay calls “positive constructive daydreaming” — i.e. daydreaming while doing something low key, such as knitting or gardening — will “refresh your focus and also help you to become more creative.” So set aside some free time to let your mind wander and you might be surprised what it stumbles upon.
Set Aside Space for Yourself
With work, family, friends, and all your other obligations, it can be easy to forget about yourself. Get in the habit of setting aside a few minutes each day to set aside all your other obligations and just consider how you are doing at that moment and how you are progressing on your longer-term life goals.
“Whatever stage you’re in, it’s likely you may have lost sight of your own self, goals, or priorities,” says Julia Colangelo, therapist and clinical social worker. “Try to revisit how you’d ideally like to spend your time and create a space during your day to give yourself time to focus on yourself. This can be in the form of revisiting a hobby you thought you didn’t have time for, trying something new, or beginning a new routine for yourself at sunrise or sunset.”
Wake Up Early
Ben Franklin knew what he was talking about: early risers do tend to get healthy, wealthy, and wise. Waking up early not only gives you an ideal timeframe to meditate, exercise, or get some reading in, it sets the tone for the rest of your day—you’ll find yourself arriving to work and other appointments early, finishing up projects earlier than you expected to, and enjoying a higher level of energy throughout the day.
Whether it’s going for walks in the park, admiring the stars in the night sky, or taking in the sunset, it’s good to get in the habit of appreciating the natural world. Spending time in nature has been found to reduce stress and improve life satisfaction—the physical exercise of going for a hike or mountain bike ride also doesn’t hurt, either.
Exercise in the Morning
Whether it’s a full-blown workout or just a few minutes of stretches, get active as part of your morning ritual. It will sharpen your mind and have you feeling at once more relaxed and more focused throughout your morning. One killer exercise regimen to make part of your morning? The time-efficient, scientifically proven 7-Minute Workout.
Go to Concerts
The noise, the lack of personal space, the beer that will probably spill on you; there are numerous reasons why going to live music shows loses its attraction once you hit your 40s. But when you stop caring about pop culture or getting outside your comfort zone for an evening every now and then, you start losing your edge. You don’t want to be the old dude trying to pass as a twentysomething, but you don’t want to lose your sense of discovery.
Always Have a Book in Progress
It can be a novel, biography, self-help manual, or anything else, but you should always have a book that you are in the process of reading. This not only provides you with all the obvious benefits of a literate life—inspiration with new ideas, sharper reading skills, expanding knowledge—it also gives you a great conversation topic for any conversation. “I was reading about…” is an easy opener whether talking to a boss, friend, or a stranger in line at the grocery store.
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