40 Life Changes You Should Make After 40

These life-changing habits will make your 40s your best decade yet.

40-something couple running, healthy sex after 40

Turning 40 can feel like a big deal, and it is: it might just be the beginning of your best decade yet. When you hit your 40s, your career is in better shape than it was a decade before, you know what you want from life, and many people even find themselves hitting peak confidence in their 40s, as well. Luckily, making the most of this amazing period in your life is easy. We've rounded up the 40 life changes you should make after 40 to make this your best decade yet. And remember: knowing the 40 Ways Your Body Changes After 40 can keep you healthy and active in your 40s and beyond.

Get Up Earlier

alarm clock how to sleep better

While many people find that they tend to naturally wake up earlier as they get older, even if you don't, try to make getting out of bed earlier a priority by the time you hit 40. Waking up earlier afford you some time to hit the gym before it gets too crowded, make yourself a healthy breakfast, or just take some time to 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. Fortunately, the 25 Best Non-Coffee Ways to Boost Your Energy Levels can turn anyone into an early riser.

Develop a Hobby

Couple Painting Together

Want to make the most of your 40s? Stop wasting time with TV binges and develop a hobby instead. Not only can developing a hobby increase your confidence and expand your social circle, it may help keep you cognitively fit in the long run. According to research conducted at the University of Pittsburgh, adults who engaged in hobbies on a regular basis were less likely to develop dementia in later life than those who abstained. Need some inspiration? Try one of the 40 Best Hobbies to Take Up in Your 40s.

Ditch Your Debt

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While retirement may still be quite a way off when you're in your 40s, getting rid of any debt now can help you secure a more stable financial future. According to research from PayScale, workers' earnings tend to be at their peak in their 40s, meaning there's no better time to pay down your debt rapidly. Even if you buy your first home at 40, if you get serious about paying down your debt now, you can easily have it paid off by the time retirement rolls around. Luckily, it's easy to get started with the 20 Best Ways to Lower Your Mortgage Payment.

Be More Assertive at Work

Handshake, Interview

Your 40s are a perfect time to go for the gold when it comes to your career. While you're still building your career skills, or may still even be working toward a terminal degree in your 20s and 30s, by the time you hit your 40s, you should be ready to take your career to the next level. Of course, that doesn't mean waiting for raises to fall in your lap.

Your 40s are the perfect time to become more assertive at work. In fact, research published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology reveals that assertive women are more likely to be considered for raises than their shy counterparts. And when you're ready to snag that corner office, check out the 25 Best Ways to Score a Promotion.

Find a Fitness Routine Your Love

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Just because you've 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 that cardio hip-hop abs class you were always too scared to try before, can set you up for better health as you age. Doing so may even save your life: research published in the journal Circulation reveals that just two years of regular exercise helped to counteract the cardiovascular effects of study participants' previously sedentary lifestyles. If you're in the market for some great class suggestions, check out the 7 Luxury Fitness Classes Everyone Should Try.

Add Weight Training to Your Exercise Plan

Couple Lifting Weights

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 tone make you look leaner, even if the numbers on the scale haven't actually gone down, researchers at Tufts University have found resistance training effective at improving balance, potentially preventing a future fall. Remember: Not lifting weights is one of the 40 Worst Habits for People Over 40. 

Use Sunscreen Every Single Day

Woman Applying Sunscreen Anti-Aging

Your skin is your largest organ, and by the time you're in your 40s, you definitely need to start protecting it. Skin cancer is the most commonly-diagnosed cancer in the United States, but reducing your risk is simple. Using sunscreen every single day, regardless of the weather, can help reduce your skin cancer risk and keep fine lines and wrinkles from forming, as well.

Embrace Your Optimistic Side

Life Changes in Your 30s

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, research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology links optimism with lower rates of death from many common ailments, including cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Convinced? Good. Now try one of these 70 Genius Tricks to Get Instantly Happy.

Stick to a Single Drink When You Go Out

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While you may have been able to pound shots, sleep a few winks, and wake up feeling like a million bucks in your 20s, odds are that's not the case by the time you hit 40. Although showing up at work hungover is a bad look at any age, by the time you're 40, it's time to scale back your drinking, even if you can spend the day sleeping it off. People tend to have a lower tolerance for alcohol as they get older, so when you do drink, just have one, maybe two for special occasions, and make sure to have an equal amount of water, as well.

Get Those Aches and Pains Looked At

habits after 40

It may have felt like there was nothing a little duct tape and hope couldn't fix at 20. When you've hit your 40s, it's time to get even seemingly minor aches and pains checked by a doctor. A sudden pain or health issue is far more likely to be something serious as you age, so time is of the essence when it comes to getting it checked out. And for more great health advice, here are the 30 Best Ways to Lose Weight at Work. 

Take the Right Supplements

vitamins are necessary after 40

Having a healthy supplement routine under your belt 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 research suggests that omega-3 supplementation may even help with weight loss.

Give Back

new year's resolutions volunteer more

Want to boost your confidence and improve the world around you? Make it your mission to start giving back in your 40s. Not only is making the world a better place a pretty noble goal on its own, research published in Health Psychology reveals that volunteering may actually increase your lifespan, as well.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

stop judging women over 40

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 FOMO feeling is sure to fade. And if you could use a great pick-me-up, see the 75 Jokes So Bad They're Actually Funny.

Have Your Clothes Tailored

dressing well 50s

You're feeling confident in your 40s, and you deserve to look it. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is by having your clothes tailored for you. A perfectly-tailored suit or dress will not only fit you like a glove, it can also help you appear slimmer without all that excess fabric hiding your shape. But before you go, don't miss the 20 Secrets Your Tailor Won't Tell You.

Develop a Skincare Routine That Works for You

bad beauty products

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 likely 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. For more, see the 40 Ways to Get Your Best Skin in Your 40s.

Read Regularly

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Give yourself plenty to talk about at your next dinner party, stay informed, and keep your brain agile in one fell swoop by committing more time to reading in your 40s. In fact, research published in the American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease & Other Dementias links spending an hour reading each day with a lower risk of dementia later in life. Need a great syllabus? Consider the 40 Books Every Woman Over 40 Needs On Her Bookshelf.

Stop Pretending to Like Things You Don't

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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 discussing The Corrections and listening to Rush, if they're not your thing? And for more great book recs, here are the 40 Books Every Man Over 40 Should Have on His Bookshelf.

And Don't Be Shy About the Things You Are Into

Man Making Pizza Valentine's Day

Luckily, the increased confidence many people experience in their 40s makes it a prime time to embrace all those weird things you were admit to liking. Who cares that the only food you can cook is pizza, or that your favorite movie is Mallrats?

Learn to De-Stress Naturally

higher energy person

If you want to live a longer, healthier life, your 40s are the perfect time to learn how to de-stress naturally. While wine and screaming have their place, lowering your stress level through exercise, meditation, and other mindfulness practices can make your life easier and more enjoyable. According to 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. And for more ways to decompress, here are the 10 Best Ways to Focus Better During Meditation.

Get Confident About Your Looks

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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.

Take Your Oral Health Seriously

habits after 40

Brushing and flossing when you remember to just won't cut it in your 40s. Brushing and flossing at least twice a day and checking in with your dentist every year, or when issues arise, can help keep your pearly whites shining and help you maintain your whole-body health for longer. Better yet, research suggests a link between oral health and heart health, so if you want another half-century to look forward to, it's time to start taking your oral health seriously.

Keep a Journal

Woman working on her photographic memory.

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. Not only does journaling provide you a record of important events in your life, researchers at the University of California found that expressive journaling significantly reduced anxiety among study subjects.

Remove Toxic People From Your Life

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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."

Get Regular Cancer Screenings

thyroid woman getting neck ultrasound

When 40 rolls around, it's time to start talking to your doctor about regular cancer screenings. While it's wise to start getting checked for skin cancer on a yearly basis by the time you're 30, by the time you're in your 40s, you should get, or at least discuss, regular breast, prostate, and colon cancer screenings, as well.

Drink Water All Day Long

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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 not only keep you feeling full for longer, making it easier to shed those last few pounds, researchers at the University of Connecticut have also linked dehydration to fatigue, memory issues, headaches, and poor mood.

Travel Whenever and Wherever

being single

You're more likely to have a little extra cash in your 40s than you were 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 you've never spent time in, travel is a great way to get more enjoyment out of life. In fact, researchers at Cornell University found that study subjects were significantly happier when they had a trip to look forward to. If you're inspired to take a trip soon, consider one of these 10 Stunning American Resorts Under $150-per-Night.

Stay Out of Office Drama

business men in office Smartest Men Get Ahead

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 which co-workers were sleeping together or who used up more than their fair share of printer paper. And for more great advice on rising the corporate ladder, here are 40 Amazing Ways to Jumpstart Your Career. 

Move On From Your Own Mistakes

demisexual woman in bed

While that flubbed interview or bad date can feel like an albatross around your neck, it's time 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

couple relaxing , Bad Dating Marriage Tips

Similarly, let other people off the hook for past offenses whenever possible. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found that unforgiving thoughts actually increased study subjects' blood pressure and heart rate, meaning it may be best for your mental and physical health to let those grudges go.

Increase Your Protein Intake

omelet healthy breakfast

Those sugary foods that fueled your study sessions in college should take a backseat to high-protein meals by the time you hit 40. Increasing your protein intake can help keep you full and make it easier to lose those extra pounds many people find lingering in their 40s.

Lose Five Percent of Your Body Weight

weight loss motivation

Instead of setting yourself up to fail with some outrageous weight-loss goal, commit to losing just five percent of your body weight in your 40s. Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that obese patients who lost just five percent of their body weight significantly reduced their risk for heart disease and diabetes while improving their liver function.

Spend More Time With Your Friends

Men hugging

Don't let your friendships fall to the wayside just because life is keeping you busy. In your 40s, long after all the drama of your 20s and 30s has subsided, make a real effort to take time for your friends on a regular basis. Research published in Psychiatry even 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.

Flirt With Your Partner

40 compliments

It's easy to let your relationship get stagnant when you've been together for a long time. To keep things fresh (and keep divorce off the table), 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. But if you're a man, remember to avoid the 17 Things No Man Should Ever Say to a Woman.

Make Decisions About What Happens to Your Money

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While reducing your debt and maximizing your savings are noble goals, by the time you're in your 40s, you probably have a better picture about what you want to do with that hard-earned cash in the long term. If you don't see yourself having kids, footing the bill for an aging parent's care, or buying a house, you might feel less inclined to save as much as possible, favoring more modest savings and an amazing yearly vacation instead. 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.

Switch Up Your Makeup Routine

best skin

Those makeup products that worked on your 20-year-old skin probably aren't pulling their weight at 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 look more current—cat-eye liner and nude lips won't be trendy forever, after all.

Give Yourself Some Alone Time

Woman traveling alone Being Single in your thirties

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. In fact, research at the University of Buffalo have 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.

Stop Sitting All Day

man at standing desk Smartest Men Get Ahead

Occasionally hitting the gym probably isn't going to do much to counteract the risks of sitting all day, especially as you near middle age. 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.

The good news? There are multiple ways to make your office routine more active. According to the Mayo Clinic adopting a standing desk could potentially help workers shave off an extra five pounds each year. However, if standing all day doesn't seem feasible, you can always keep moving with an under-desk elliptical or stair stepper, as well.

Use All of Your Vacation Days

40 things people under 40 don't know

54 percent of Americans don't use all of their vacation days. 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.

Get a Regular Physical

Doctor Checking Woman's Lungs

By the time you hit 40, it's time to ditch that fear of your annual physical. Sure, you may not like hearing that you're a few pounds heavier than you'd like, or that your cholesterol isn't exactly ideal, but getting a yearly physical is essential for keeping you healthy. Checking in with your doctor can help you treat illnesses before they get serious, and your doctor can help monitor any health issues as they arise.

Commit to Getting Enough Sleep

over 40s myth

If you're 40 or over, it's time to get a comfortable bed and not skimp on the amount of time you spend in it. Research published 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. And when you want to make it easier to hit the hay, start with the 20 Nighttime Habits Guaranteed to Help You Sleep Better.

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