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40 Habits to Drop by Age 40

Second-nature or not, it's high time to purge some of your routines.

By the time you hit 40, you're probably in a pretty comfortable place. You're at a job that pays well, maybe have a family with a couple kids, and are a proud owner of a packed schedule and a never-ending to-do list. Even if you feel like you have everything together, there are definitely some changes you can make.

To up your productivity, increase your confidence, and live your best life yet, here are 40 habits you should drop immediately. And for some positive changes to your lifestyle, try picking up any of the 40 Amazing Habits to Adopt After 40.

Being on Your Phone… All the Time

Woman holding smartphoneCrazy Facts You Never Knew About Your Smartphone

Remember the days when no one was glued to their phones and actually had to go out into the world to communicate with other people? Let's bring those back. Instead of spending your life mindlessly scrolling, try putting it down and living in the moment as often as possible. Time is precious and you won't want to look back wishing you would have spent it doing something besides double-tapping pictures on Instagram. For tips on cutting back, check out the 11 Ways to Curb Your Smartphone Addiction.

Dating Non-Stop on All the Apps

Couple on Phone Romance

Nowadays, there's an app for everything — and there are plenty for dating. If you're spending multiple nights a week going on horrible first dates in hopes of finding someone to spend your life with, stop.

Instead, ditch the apps and go do more of what you love, whether that's taking your dog to the park or signing up for your favorite HIIT classes. You might be surprised by who's waiting for you when you're not putting all your eggs in one basket. And if you find yourself making eyes at someone, consider trying out the 50 Pick-Up Lines So Corny They Might Actually Work.

Spending All Your Money on Objects

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Hey, we get it — Target is a wonderful place and it's easy to walk in for one thing and come out with 20 you never knew you needed until browsing those magical aisles. When it comes to your livelihood, though, you're way better off avoiding spending all your money on random things and instead saving it up for life experiences, like a trip on your bucket list. And for trips to add to your bucket list, try visiting any of the 15 Best Under-the-Radar American Escapes.

Being Overly Passive-Aggressive

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Everyone has those times they really don't want to deal with confrontation face-to-face. The only issue? By avoiding sometimes-awkward situations, you might be stifling your own happiness. The next time a situation arises where you know you should speak up, do it: When you say what you need to say, you'll be able to get what you want and be much more satisfied in the end because of it.

Having a Super-Messy Inbox

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One of the greatest stressors in life that people tend to not think about? A messy inbox. If your email is jam-packed with a long list of subscriptions you don't even remember signing up for, take some time to clean things up. You'll be shocked at how much peace of mind you'll get, giving you more energy for the things that count. And for more ways to simplify your life, be sure you know the 30 Ways You're Making Your Life Way Harder Than It Needs to Be. 

Setting 20 Alarms in the Morning

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6:32, 6:38, 6:44… we all do it. But how long does it take you to actually get up despite having a long chain of alarms rattling off every morning? Start setting one (maybe two!) alarms, tops, and make it clear to your sleepy self that there's no more playing games — you just have to get up. You'll get more sleep and won't wake up grumpy because of the whole phone-blaring-in-your-face-for-an-hour thing. To master this trick, learn how to wake up every morning without an alarm clock at all.

A Rushed Morning Routine

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How many times have you woken up late, rushed to get ready, and ran off to work feeling frazzled and stressed? It happens to everyone, but if it's an everyday occurrence, it might be time to rethink your morning routine.

Instead of waking up feeling rushed, work on getting up early enough to enjoy some time to yourself before life takes over, even if that means having a chance to sit down with a coffee and your favorite book. And for some great suggestions, consider one of the 40 Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf.

Binge-Watching TV at Night

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Binge-watching has become everyone's favorite post-work hobby to unwind and forget about the day. The only problem? While kicking back and watching one show is A-OK, spending your entire evening in front of the TV isn't the best way to relax. Instead of letting those hours fly by, find something more mindful to do so you'll feel like you made the most out of the hours in your day.

Keeping Toxic Friendships

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Just because you've been friends with someone your entire life doesn't mean they should be in your life. If you have a friend who always tends to make you feel worse after being around them, maybe it's time to ditch them out of your group. Friends should bring each other up, not put each other down — and by the time you're 40, it's not at all worth dealing with the toxicity anymore. And for more ways to live smarter, know the 20 Genius Ways to Be Less Lazy.

Staying in Unhealthy Relationships

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Friendships aren't the only things that can be toxic. Sometimes people feel stuck in a romantic relationship as they get older, thinking it's their one shot at finding love. If your connection is an unhealthy one, though, you're better off ditching it: Something healthy and fulfilling will come around that will make you feel loved and protected, not the opposite. And if you're single, be sure you know the 12 Things Women Should Stop Doing on Dates. 

Working Your Life Away

woman sleeping at desk alzheimers symptom

In your 20s, your work life is everything. You're trying to climb the corporate ladder and get ahead in your industry with the goal of making as much money as possible. As you get older, priorities tend to change.

Yes, still keep makin' bank in a job you love — but make sure that job doesn't take over your entire life. What will you look back on and be more proud of someday: The promotions you got in the office or all the memories you made outside of that cubicle?

Over-Planning Every Detail of Your Life

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If you're a Level 10 Planner, good for you: Your life is probably super organized and your Google Calendar is probably stunning. While having all your plans in order isn't a bad thing, you might want to make sure you're not over-doing it. When you stick to your schedule, you don't leave a lot of room for fun and spontaneity and that's when some of the best memories tend to happen.

Never Leaving Your Hometown

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Whether you grew up in the same town you live in now or are just so comfortable in it that you don't feel the need to leave, leave. At least occasionally. Some people spend their entire lives in their bubbles doing their same routines day-by-day and are perfectly happy with that, but venturing outside of your comfort zone and seeing the world is an experience you'll never regret. And if you head out on a vacation, be sure you know these 20 Shocking Facts About Your Hotel Room. 

Talking Bad About Your Body

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You wouldn't shame your friend's body, right? So why would you do the same to yourself? Your body is a pretty amazing vessel: It's gotten you through a lot over the years. Instead of knocking yourself down, really focus on building your confidence up. You'd be surprised at just how effective a body-boosting pep-talk really is. To pump yourself up about your physique, try out any of the 15 Body Positive Affirmations That Actually Work.

Living in the Past

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You're never going to be happy in present-day if you keep living in the past. Sure, you can look back and be proud of your achievements and your favorite memories, but don't get so stuck in those years that you stop living in the moment.

Being Afraid to Try New Things

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It's easy to set stuck in your routine. Heck, it's comfortable and there's probably nothing wrong with it. Once you branch out and try something new — whether that's taking up a hobby you've always wanted to do or going on an adrenaline-boosting adventure — you'll feel like you're living more than ever before.

Being So Serious

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As the Joker would say: "Why so serious?" There are times you need to buckle down and get things done; everyone has bills to pay, after all! But after you're finished with the adult stuff, let loose and have some fun. Just because you're an adult doesn't mean you don't deserve some playtime.

Not Scheduling in Any Me-Time

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Be honest: When's the last time you did something for yourself? If you can't even remember, it's time to schedule in some me-time. Treat yourself to something that makes you happy, whether that's a manicure or some yoga at your favorite studio. It's always beneficial to spend some time by yourself away from it all to really clear your head.

Comparing Yourself to Your Younger Self

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By the time you hit 40, everyone is going to start wishing they still had some of the things they didn't appreciate enough when they were younger — looking at you, wrinkle-free skin! You're never going to age backwards, though, so why even waste your time comparing yourself to your younger self? Appreciate the things you have as you've aged: You're wise, know what you want in life, and those smile lines came from a ridiculously happy life. And remember: Here are 30 Ways to Feel Better About Your Body Instantly. 

Spending All Your Time with Your Sigot

couple Being Single in your thirties

When your significant other becomes your best friend, it's easy to spend every waking moment you can with them. The only issue? When you never leave each other's sides, you're hurting all your other strong relationships. Make sure you take the time to give each other some space, even if you don't want to. After spending time with other people, you'll feel much more well-rounded — and have even more things to talk about.

Avoiding Your Family's Calls

Guy on Phone Smiling Romance

You can only ignore your mom's calls so many times before she starts taking it personal. Life gets busy — and your family surely gets that! — but you never know how much time you have with the people you love.

Set some time aside to have meaningful conversations with your family members. Everyone has time for a quick 10-minute catch-mom-up-on-life break. In fact, skipping mom's calls is one of the 20 Mistakes You're Making That Are Compounding Your Stress.

Striving Toward Perfection

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As nice as it would be to be perfect, it's not possible no matter how hard you try. Instead of wasting time trying to look like an airbrushed model in a magazine or your favorite celebrity that has a team of 10 helping them get ready for their public appearances, take a step back and realize you're just fine the way you are. Once you learn to love yourself and quit striving toward flawlessness, you'll feel that much more fulfilled in life.

Sleeping With Your Phone

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Everyone is on their phones all day long, then after crawling into bed, scroll through all their apps even more. And to top things off, it's not uncommon to fall asleep with it in your hand. Yikes, right? Make it a priority to take some time away from your technology — especially when you're in bed trying to get a good night's sleep without little pings coming from your phone all night long.

Having Way Too Full of a Schedule

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Some people absolutely thrive on business and love having something to do at all times. After a while, that can get incredibly tiring, though. Avoid packing your schedule to the brim and make sure you're leaving time for rest, time to hang out with your family, and time for yourself.

Not Using Your Vacation Days

woman infinity pool vacation

Know what's sad? According to a survey, 54 percent of U.S. employees with paid vacation don't even use all of their time off. Well, it's time to change that. As much fun as it is sitting at your desk all year long (sarcasm, people!), make it a top priority to start using every single one of your well-deserved days of freedom to see the world or simply have a stress-free staycation at home. And if your work doesn't grant you enough PTO, you needn't worry: you can pick up tons of extra vacation days with this simple trick.

Keeping All Your Money in Your Checking Account

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As you make more and more money over the years, it's really fun to watch it pile up in your checking account. The only problem? Seeing it in your checking makes it easier to spend. If you haven't already, start taking full advantage of your savings account so you'll have a bunch of funds lined up for fun trips and experiences over the years. And for more ways to optimize your financial status, learn the 52 Ways to Be Better With Money.

Holding Grudges

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Yes, Becky might have stolen your boyfriend in college — but now, close to 40, it's time to put that grudge (and all your others!) to rest. Living life with hatred toward others is no way to live. Instead, focus on the positives and let those negatives that don't matter fall to the wayside.

Feeling Self Conscious 24/7

self conscious bad habits

It might feel like everyone is always looking at you and watching your every move, but spoiler: they're not. And that's the most refreshing thing to realize. Stop feeling self-conscious, whether that's about your body, your life, or your relationships. It's so common to waste time stressing about things that don't really matter in life, and one of them is certainly caring about what other people — people that don't matter — think.

Not Putting Aside Money for Your Retirement

Budgeting money

When you're younger, the last thing on your mind is your retirement. Once you hit 40, though, the first thing to pop into your head when you realize you haven't been putting a whole lot of money aside is "whoopsies!" Don't wait until you're in your 60s to try to figure out how to retire. Instead, make sure you're putting money away now — especially considering one survey found 42 percent of people will retire broke.

Saying Yes to Everything

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Being a so-called yes-man can be a good thing, but it can also wear you down fast. Instead of feeling like you have to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way — whether that's at work or in your personal life — don't feel guilty about turning down the things that aren't going to impact your life in a positive way.

Being Indecisive About Everything

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If you answer "whatever you want!" or "I don't care" to pretty much every question — dinner options, paint colors, everything — it's time to quit being so indecisive. Make it your mission to speak up more about what you want, even if you think it might be the exact opposite of the person who's asking.

Making Extra-Long To-Do Lists

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It might feel good writing out your to-do lists, but once you look down and realize you're onto your 20th task, reality sets in: You're never going to get them all done. Instead of stressing yourself out over everything you know you need to complete, switch from XL lists to ones with only a handful of tasks. That way you won't feel overwhelmed — and you'll actually be able to feel a sense of accomplishment after you cross them all off.

Working Over Your Lunch Break

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Remember when people actually used to each lunch during their lunch breaks? Yeah, me neither. It's all too common to spend your one-hour rest from work with a fork in one hand and a computer mouse on the other. This year, make sure you take that time for yourself: Sit away from your desk and eat without any distractions to unwind before going about your busy day.

Keeping Anything and Everything

Woman looking at clothes in closet

OK, OK, you might not be at hoarder-status yet — but most people have way more things in their homes than they even know what to do with. Instead of letting everything build up over the years, take some time to clean out every drawer, every closet, and every room until you only have what you really love (and actually need!) in your space. You'll feel much lighter, more energized, and will finally know where everything is for the first time, ever.

Texting Friends Instead of Calling

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If you're always texting friends you never get to see face-to-face, switch things up and call them once and a while. You'll have even more meaningful conversations when you're hearing each other's voices. Plus, you won't be multitasking while you're chatting — you'll be focusing on your BFF and strengthening your relationship.

Trying to Win Every Argument


What's the fun in being right all the time? If you always seem to come out of arguments on top, it might be time to back off a little and quit trying to win every single discussion. Take the time to really see someone else's side and focus more on coming to an agreement that works for both of you — not something that's always one-sided.

Trusting Others Over Yourself

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It's easy to get advice from others and just stick with it, no questions asked, but sometimes you have to take a step back and go with your gut — even if you're not sure if that's the best choice. In the end, it will feel good to know you went with what you thought was right, whether it really was or not.

Living With Regrets

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Everyone is always going to have those things they wish they would have (or haven't!) done in their past, but that's no way to live. As you get older, start living your life with no regrets — and don't let anything hold you back from having a bright and happy future.

Being the Master of Self-Deprecation

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Whether you're trying to make others laugh, trying to be modest, or trying to make someone feel better about themselves, self-deprecation isn't uncommon. That doesn't mean you should keep doing it, though — you might actually start to believe that negative talk over time. Instead, don't be afraid to talk yourself up and be confident with who you are; there's no reason to put yourself down.

Doing Everything Yourself

Woman doing chores in the morning.

If you're the type of person who never asks anyone for help, it's time to stop that ASAP. Instead of doing everything yourself — be it in your household or at work — start delegating tasks to others. It might feel powerful to do it all, but it's also incredibly tiring and you deserve a break, too. And when it comes time to slam the breaks on your purge and pick up some habits, learn the 40 Ways to Develop New Habits After 40.

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Tehrene Firman
Tehrene Firman is a freelance health and wellness writer. Read more