40 Life Changes You Should Make After 40
These life-changing habits will make your 40s your best decade yet.
Turning 40 can feel like a big deal, and that's because it is. In fact, it might just be the beginning of your best decade yet. When you reach your 40s, your career is in better shape than it was a decade before, you know what you want from life, and you just might find yourself hitting peak confidence. It shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that making the most of this amazing period in your life is easy. We've rounded up 40 life changes you should make after 40 to make this your best decade yet.
Stop pretending to enjoy things you actually hate.
While it may have felt important to like the same bands, books, or movies as your friends when you were younger, your 40s are the perfect time to stop pretending to care about things that don't matter to you. You only have so many years to spend on this planet, so why waste them pretending to be someone you're not? Reinvent yourself in your 40s by becoming who you really are.
And don't be shy about the things you are into.
Luckily, the increased confidence you experience in your 40s makes it a prime time to embrace all those weird things you secretly love. Who cares that you still love seeing Taylor Swift in concert, or that your favorite movie is Toy Story? You're in your 40s, and the only person whose opinion matters is your own!
Learn a new language.
"A higher level of education is associated with better mental functioning in old age," notes Harvard Medical School's blog. And in your 40s, what's more useful than studying a new language? When you travel, you can use your new linguistics knowledge to communicate and impress the locals.
Become a world traveler.
You're more likely to have a little extra cash in your 40s than you did in your 20s, so why not spend it exploring the world around you? Whether you're jetting off to Rome or just driving to a nearby town, travel is a great way to get more enjoyment out of life. In fact, researchers at Cornell University found in a 2014 study that subjects were significantly happier when they had a trip to look forward to.
Use all of your vacation days.
According to 2017 research from Glassdoor reported by MarketWatch, 54 percent of Americans didn't use all of their vacation days in 2016. However, research suggests that going on vacation can make you happier, healthier, and even more productive when you return to work. If you're in your 40s, you've likely spent close to half your life working, so go ahead and take those benefits offered to you while you can.
Reinvigorate your relationship with some flirting.
It's easy to let your relationship get stagnant when you've been together for a long time. To keep things fresh, make sure you're still making time to flirt with your partner in your 40s. A little flirtation can go a long way in terms of making your partner feel loved and wanted—and as they say, happy wife, happy life.
Wake up earlier.
While many people tend to naturally wake up earlier as they get older, try to make getting out of bed earlier a priority by the time you hit 40. Waking up earlier affords you some time to hit the gym before it gets too crowded, make yourself a healthy breakfast, or just decompress before the day starts. Better yet, researchers at Northwestern University have linked exposure to early morning sunlight to lower BMIs, so losing a little lounge time in bed could help you lose that spare tire, too.
Find a hobby.
Want to make the most of your 40s? Stop wasting time with TV binges and find a hobby instead. Not only can developing a hobby increase your confidence and expand your social circle, but it may help keep you cognitively fit in the long run. One 2011 study published in the American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease & Other Dementias found that adults who partook in their hobbies on a regular basis were less likely to develop dementia in later life than those who abstained.
Commit more time to reading in your 40s. It's more than just a fun hobby: A 2013 study published in the journal Neurology found that older individuals who remained avid readers until their deaths reduced memory-related decline by 32 percent.
Manage your finances.
While retirement may still be a way off when you're in your 40s, getting rid of any debt now can help you secure a more stable financial future. And according to research from PayScale, workers' earnings tend to be at their peak when people are in their 40s, meaning there's no better time to pay off your debt. If you get serious about paying off your debt now, you can easily be rid of it entirely by the time retirement rolls around.
Reinvent your finances.
Your 40s are a great time to talk to a financial planner and figure out just what your money goals are over the next 40 years. If you want to buy a house, then you can figure out how much you need to save every month to realistically put down a down payment; if you have kids, then you can figure out how much you need to put away for their college education; and if you want to travel the world once you retire, then you can start to budget for just that.
Be more assertive at work.
Your 40s are the perfect time to become more assertive at work. And research published in 2016 in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology reveals that assertive women are more likely to be considered for raises than their shyer counterparts. You've worked your way up the ladder this far, so why not keep going?
Stay out of office drama.
If you plan to retire at 65, you've got a lot of working years still ahead of you in your 40s. To make that time more bearable, do your best to steer clear of office drama whenever possible. Ten years from now, you won't remember (or care) who used up more than their fair share of printer paper.
Don't stay at a job you hate.
If you're unhappy with your current work situation, don't be afraid to start looking for something new—even in your 40s. This will benefit both your mental and physical health: A 2016 survey from Ohio State University found that workers who were less fulfilled in their careers were more likely to have sleep issues and depressive symptoms.
Find a fitness routine you love.
Just because you've previously spent more time on the couch than in the gym doesn't mean you can't turn things around in your 40s. Finding a fitness routine you love—be it Zumba, cycling, or yoga—can set you up for better health as you age. Doing so may even save your life: Research published in 2018 in the journal Circulation reveals that two years of regular exercise helped to counteract the cardiovascular effects of study participants' previously sedentary lifestyles.
Add weight training to your exercise plan.
By the time you hit 40, it's time to make regular weight training an integral part of your exercise routine. Not only can increasing your muscle mass make you look leaner, but researchers at Tufts University have found resistance training to be effective at improving balance, potentially preventing a future fall.
Cook more meals at home.
Now that you're 40, it's more than likely that you have a family to feed. Therefore, it's high time that you learn how to cook nutritious homemade meals for them, even if they aren't all that elaborate. One 2014 study from Johns Hopkins found that people who eat at home six to seven nights a week consumed fewer calories than those who eat out.
Keep your drinking to a minimum.
While you may have been able to drink an entire bottle of wine and wake up feeling like a million bucks in your 20s, odds are that's not the case by the time you hit 40. People tend to have a lower tolerance for alcohol as they get older, so when you do drink, limit yourself to just a few glasses and make sure to consume an equal amount of water.
Take the right supplements.
Having a healthy supplement routine in your 40s might just mean a longer, healthier life. While your doctor can help you determine what supplements are right for you, multivitamins are a good place to start for most people, and 2015 research published in Scientific Reports suggests that omega-3 supplementation may even help with weight loss.
Want to improve your health and the world around you? Make it your mission to start giving back in your 40s. Research published in 2012 in Health Psychology reveals that volunteering may actually increase your lifespan, so when you volunteer at a soup kitchen or walk the dogs at your local shelter, you'll feel good for several reasons.
Get your clothes tailored.
In your 40s, you deserve to look as confident as you feel. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is by having your clothes tailored. A perfectly tailored suit or dress will not only fit you like a glove, but will also help you appear slimmer.
And get rid of clothes that don't fit properly.
You might have been able to get away with wearing ill-fitting clothes in your 20s and 30s, but not in your 40s. When you're reinventing yourself during this decade, make sure to toss anything that doesn't fit, whether that's jeans that are a size too small or shirts that are a size too big. Form-fitting pieces that actually fit are always the most flattering!
Develop a skincare routine that works for you.
Your face is the first thing people see when they look at you, so make it shine with an age-appropriate skincare routine. Many people experience more dryness as they get older, so it's time to ditch those harsh acne-fighting products you used in your 20s in favor of gentler ones. And if you're eager to fight off wrinkles, moisturizing is the name of the game.
Switch up your makeup routine.
Those makeup products that worked on your 20-year-old skin probably aren't going to pull their weight once you're 40. Switching to age-appropriate makeup styles and formulas will make it easier to deemphasize fine lines and wrinkles while treating dryness and other skin concerns. Better yet, changing up your look can help you reinvent yourself and look more current—cat-eye liner and nude lips won't be trendy forever, after all.
You only have one life to live, so why waste it feeling bad about what you see in the mirror? Your 40s are that sweet spot where you're smart enough to both treat your body right and accept that perfection isn't necessarily possible. While you may have a few more fine lines than you did 20 years ago, consider them proof of a life well-lived.
Not sure how to be more confident? In another Best Life article, Miyume McKinley, LCSW, owner of Epiphany Counseling, Consulting & Treatment Services, suggests making "a list of why you love you, and why you should love you." Once your list is complete, she says you should "remind yourself often" of all the reasons you have for loving yourself.
Stop comparing yourself to others.
It's hard to feel confident about your looks, finances, relationship, and career 24/7, but by the time you're in your 40s, you should make a sincere effort to stop comparing yourself to others. By this point in time, your life has, for better or worse, taken a different path than many of your friends or family members, but there's no use beating yourself up over it. Focus on the things that you're happy about and proud about instead, and that regretful feeling is sure to fade.
Keep a journal.
It's no big secret that our memories tend to get less sharp as we get older. The good news? Journaling may be able to help. A notable 2001 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that expressive writing improved working memory and made subjects more capable of handling stress. Win-win!
Learn how to move on from your own mistakes.
While that flubbed interview or bad date can feel like an albatross around your neck, you need to forgive yourself for those mistakes by the time you hit 40. When it's appropriate, atone, and when it's not, just do your best to move on.
Let go of grudges.
Similarly, let other people off the hook for past offenses now that you're 40 and more mature. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found that unforgiving thoughts actually increased study subjects' blood pressure and heart rate, so it may be best for your mental and physical health to just let those grudges go.
Embrace your optimistic side.
While it's easy to fall on the glass-half-empty side of the spectrum, enjoying life more starts with channeling your inner optimist. Not only can being optimistic improve your outlook on life, but research published in 2017 in the American Journal of Epidemiology links optimism with lower rates of death from common ailments like cancer, heart disease, and stroke.
Remove toxic people from your life.
You only have one life to life, so why waste so much of it on people who do nothing to make it better? As family and work commitments increase in your 40s, it's the perfect time to cut toxic people out of your life for good. Nobody looks back at 50 and thinks, "I wish I had spent more time with people who made me feel terrible about myself."
Make more time for your friends.
In your 40s, make a real effort to spend time with your friends on a regular basis. Significant research published in 2007 in the journal Psychiatry suggests that having strong social support may improve mental health, so go ahead and host a game night or just pick up the phone to chat when you get the chance.
Carve out some more alone time in your schedule.
Spending every night hanging out with your friends or co-workers may have felt essential at 20. By the time you're in your 40s, however, it's just as important to know when you need down time and take it. Researchers at the University of Buffalo have even linked alone time to increased creativity, so don't be ashamed to sit out some social events in favor of a quiet night at home when you feel so inclined.
Learn how to de-stress naturally.
You can always reinvent yourself in your 40s and transform into someone who's more relaxed and stress-free. And while wine and chocolate are useful stress-busters, lowering your stress levels through exercise, meditation, and other mindfulness practices can make your life easier, more enjoyable, and longer. According to a 2005 study in the American Journal of Cardiology, stress-reduction exercises actually reduced mortality from cardiovascular disease by as much as 30 percent and reduced cancer death risk by up to 49 percent among hypertensive adults.
Live a less sedentary lifestyle.
When you reinvent yourself after 40, aim to stop sitting so much. Sitting for eight-plus hours each day has been linked to increased rates of obesity and cardiovascular disease, making it a major don't for anyone who wants to make it to 80.
Thankfully, there are multiple ways to make your office routine more active. According to the Mayo Clinic, adopting a standing desk could potentially help you shave off an extra five pounds each year. And if standing all day doesn't seem feasible, you can always keep moving with an under-desk elliptical or stair-stepper.
Stop spending so much time behind the screen.
However you reinvent yourself in your 40s, make sure you do it in a way that doesn't involve too much screen time. Screen time has been linked to health issues ranging from vision impairment to diminished heart health.
Spend more time outdoors.
Not sure how to reinvent yourself without using screens? Get outdoors! As a 2018 study from the University of East Anglia notes, spending time outside can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stress, high blood pressure, and overall death. Whether you opt to take a walk around the block or picnic in the park, a little bit of time outdoors can do you some good in your 40s.
Pay attention to your sleep schedule.
If you're 40 or over, it's time to get a comfortable bed and stop skimping on the amount of time you spend in it. Research published in 2015 in Nature Neuroscience reveals that sleep deprivation may reduce your brain's ability to store memories, potentially increasing your risk of dementia as you age. Luckily, getting just seven or eight hours a night is enough to keep you sharp as a tack.
Drink more water.
In your 40s, your water bottle should be your constant companion from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. Drinking enough water on a daily basis can keep you feeling full for longer and make it easier to shed some pounds. What's more, researchers at the University of Connecticut have linked dehydration to fatigue, memory issues, headaches, and poor mood, so staying hydrated could be the key to staying healthy through your 40s.
Adopt a pet.
Dogs and cats are more than just good cuddlers. According to a 2013 study published in Circulation, owning a pet is associated with a reduced heart disease risk and increased survival among recovering heart disease patients. An earlier 2008 study from Ohio State University found that owning a cat or dog was enough to help lower subjects' risk of depression. Even if you've never owned an animal before, it's not too late to become a proud pet parent!