40 Life Secrets You Need After 40
Daily advice to keep you feeling strong through middle age.
Corruption in Washington. Uncertainty about our healthcare system. Pollution. North Korea. According to a survey conducted by researchers at Chapman University published earlier this month, those are just some of the biggest fears that Americans share in 2017.
Now, if you’re a person in middle age, you may find such times especially stressful. After all, you’re no longer blithely traipsing through your youth, and chances are you’re feeling the added weight of responsibility that comes with building a family, advancing your career, and earning more money.
That’s why we’ve decided to offer you some moral support during what feels like totally unpredictable and uncertain times. Here you’ll find 40 great reminders about life you could probably use right now to help you soldier on—and continue to succeed. So read on, and cheer up! And for more great advice on aging, learn why Being Single in Your 40s is the Greatest Thing Ever.
To an extent you can pick your worries.
Your kids’ schoolwork. A crucial business trip around the corner. Having to buy a new muffler. Seriously: you’ve got enough to worry about in this life that could be taking its toll on your health. (After all, if you’re suffering from chronic stress, you’re damaging your body and likely making yourself sick.) While it’s definitely important to keep up with the news and to be a responsible citizen of this planet, you also have the power of managing your stress. (In other words, try not to let Kim Jong-un keep you up too much at night.) And to help you relax every day, don’t miss these 30 Easy Ways to Fight Stress.
You are living in a golden age of peace
While things certainly can appear grim, take a moment to remember that you’re living at the most peaceful time in human history. According to Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker, the steep decline in worldwide violence that has been happening over the past few centuries “may be the most significant and least appreciated development in the history of our species.” While one homicide is one too many, in the U.S. the murder rate is at a 50-year low.
Yes, fake news is real!
If you’re getting your news on social media and you don’t recognize the name brand of the source, there’s a good bet that the content is more about histrionics than fact. If a story strikes you as particularly blood-boiling, you should a) breathe, and b) cross-check it with a reputable and credible news source.
Remember: This too shall pass
Sometimes, things are breaking your way and it feels like you can’t lose. Other times, you it can feel as though the entire world and everyone in it is conspiring against you and your chances of happiness. In either instance, it’s important to remember that these are just temporary states. Allowing yourself to think that your current trajectory is permanent will only lead to a bumpier ride.
You can still change.
At 40 it can feel like you’ve missed the boat on major life changes, such as switching careers or moving cities. That’s entirely bogus. Counter those feelings by focusing on the fact that you have flexibility. You can always expand your network, find new opportunities, and make big changes to your life. Talking with a careers advisor, go to networking events, and always put on a smile. Remember: at 40 you’re finally discovering who you are and what you want.
You can let old grudges go.
At this stage in your life, feeling stung about something someone did to you is beneath you. And besides, being magnanimous is great for your mental health. In one fell swoop, you’ll free your mind of burdensome negative thoughts and feel better about yourself (win-win!). And for more psychological tricks, Steal These 16 Mental-Health Secrets of Famous Geniuses.
If you ain’t got haters, you ain’t poppin.
For the record, that’s something that a friend of mine saw spraypainted in graffiti on the side of a building in New York City. But the thing is, it’s true.
It’s essentially an updated version of a quote attributed to Elbert Hubbard. Writing at the end of the 19th century, Hubbard wrote: “To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” Receiving criticism is rarely a fun experience, but if you’re making moves that draw detractors is practically inevitable—and part of life. If you’re not making a mark and drawing opposition forces, you’re simply not doing it right.
Don’t forget to breathe.
Learning to breathe properly can relieve anxiety and stress, prevent illness, improve your sleep, help you manage your pain, and lower high blood pressure and promote weight loss. Unless you’re a regular meditator, yogi, or triathlete, you probably don’t pay much attention to how you breathe. Master it and you’ll stand a much better chance of mastering your life.
No one wants to hear anyone complain about his or her age.
At 40, you may start to get the sense that the wheels are beginning to falling off the wagon. Bits of you may break, tear, wrinkle, ache, or creek, but the truth is that you can off-set or avoid many of the pitfalls of age with a healthy lifestyle. And remember: we’re all aging in the same direction, so there’s nothing truly unique to you and your plight. Also: aging is dignified… Enjoy it! And read these 10 Surefire Ways to Get Your Best Body in Your 40s.
You should always prioritize your relationships
It’s easy to get wrapped up in your career, your hobbies, your Netflix binges, and your social media feed, but when it comes right down to it, the people in our lives are what matter most.
Always put experiences before things
A rider mower would be nice. A new sectional could make TV-watching more comfortable. That new dress. But remember: if it’s a toss up between a investing your money in an experience or a non-essential thing, take the experience every time.
Unlike a tangible purchase, an experience—particularly one that you share with people you love—is going to appreciate in value. Get in the car, jump on a plane, get the camping gear out of the basement, and go make some memories.
Always smile (because your mood is contagious)
Your facial expression, believe it or not, has the ability to not only display your mood but also to influence it. Project positivity and you’ll feel the results instantly.
Age really is just a number.
At 20, 40 can seem ancient. But at 40, you really don’t feel any different that you did at 20 and, if you’ve been heeding our good advice, you might still pass for 30 on a good day. Age really is nothing but a number and the less you buy to the idea that you’re somehow past it, the less time’s ravages will show in your appearance, you mind, and your outlook.
Always strive to simplify.
40 can mean a life full of complications, obligations, and what can seem like an overwhelming schedule. It’s likely that at least some of those obligations can be dialed way back. Unleash the power of “no” and make room to do the things that are important to you, like prioritizing time with the people you love, taking care of your mind and body with exercise, or simply taking some time alone with your thoughts. A simpler life gives you more space for joy and engagement with the people around you.
Exercise makes everything better.
Exercise is a cure-all for just about everything. Even if exercise has never been a part of your life, make it a daily priority now and you’ll see immediate benefits for your health, mood, self-esteem, and your physical, mental, and emotional strength.
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.
Studies have confirmed that among other benefits, a good breakfast will help you focus, prevent you from getting cranky, boost your metabolism, lower your LDL, and help you to lose the weight we tend to pack on around 40.
Always think before you get angry.
When you master your emotions, you master your life. Take anger, for example—how you deal with the things that make your blood boil says a lot about who you are as a person. Being nasty to the waitress who messed up your lunch order isn’t going to help her and it’s certainly not going to make you feel better either.
Punctuality is truly a virtue.
It’s not always about you, and conscientiousness is a quality that doesn’t go unnoticed. Being seen as flaky, careless, or disrespectful of another’s time is not a good look at any age—but once you pass 40, it becomes markedly less cute.
Always be patient with yourself
Cut yourself some slack and remind yourself that skill, competence, and genius ideas are typically the result of long strings of failure. Being impatient with yourself will only cause frustration and make it harder to do what you are fully capable of.
Always be just as patient with others
Your frustration will end up hurting you as much as it hurts them.
Getting older doesn’t mean getting boring.
When you were younger, you loved playing basketball. Or you jammed in a band. Or you went snowboarding every year. Life can get in the way of doing the things that make us light up. Make a point of reclaiming the things that made you feel alive. You’ll feel—and look—a lot more vibrant for it.
Social media isn’t real life.
So don’t spend your entire life scrolling.
Smart people focus on important things.
Even if you have a high-pressure job, at 40 you need to really get a handle on what is worth getting stressed about in life. If you’re still micromanaging your life and your work, it’s only going to get harder.
All we have is now.
Not to get all spiritual on you, but the past is gone and tomorrow may never come. Try and spend time each day letting soaking in sensory information as it happens. Really dig into that beautiful sunset, that sip of wine, that barrage of birdsong, and reconnect with the fact that—despite all the mental gymnastics we perform to the contrary—we are living our lives moment by moment.
Friendship grow stronger with time apart.
Work, kids, caring for your parents. Your 40s are busy and chances are that the lives of your peers are similarly full. The key to keeping your friendships vibrant in your 40s is to put an emphasis on the quality of time you spend with friends—not the quantity. Indeed, being social has been shown to protect people with some of the illnesses associated with aging, including Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
Always think before you speak.
Never forget that you can crush the spirit of someone just as easily as making them feel like they can conquer the world. Taste your words before you spit them out.
True leaders are always students.
Never stop learning, whether that’s updating skills for work or boosting your dinner-party skills. Someone in their 40s has seen firsthand that learning is not something that’s only done in class—it’s a lifelong essential for success.
A challenged mind is often a happy mind.
Neurobiologist Lawrence C. Katz, PhD, author of Keep Your Brain Alive, suggests mixing up your routine with actions that engage more than one of your senses simultaneously, which strengthens the connections between areas of the brain. It’s as simple as eating different foods, increasing social interactions, or identifying different smells and sights along your route to work.
Yes, you should always dress your age.
Reaching the fifth decade leads some of us to cling onto our youth by dressing younger—bad move. “Dressing younger only serves to highlight your advancing years,” says Alex Wilcox, co-proprietor of New York clothing store Lord Willy’s. “You end up looking like a old head on a young body. This in contrast to dressing classic—albeit with a few playful little touches—which tends to do the opposite.”
You’re your own worst critic.
One of the best things about turning 40 is caring less about what other people think. For some of us, however, old habits die hard. Remind yourself that many people don’t see your flaws as you do.
You can be the difference you want to see
Mohandas Gandhi said: “We must be the change that we wish to see in this world.” Imagine what type of person this world needs, then commit with all your might to be that person. You’ll be glad that you did.
Little comes from being truly hard on oneself
You’re wasting your energy beating yourself up. Your human, and making mistakes is part of the job description. Remember that every mistake or failure is an opportunity to learn and grow.
You should stand for something.
Instead of commenting on an issue that you’re passionate about from the sidelines, have the courage of your convictions and make the difference you want to see. You’ll be happier and more fulfilled.
One should always dress for success.
People immediately form an opinion about you based by who you present yourself by the way they look. It’s that first impression when you walk in the room that says, “Here I am.” Your clothes are your opportunity to make your personal statement.
You can be your own cheerleader
Not everyone is going to root for you. Have faith in yourself and provide your own moral support.
The little things add up.
If you take a more careful and considered approach to the routine things you do every day—brushing, flossing, making your bed, making breakfast—your consideration and conscientiousness will likely spill over into all other aspects of your life. The return on this relatively small time investment can be huge.
Your life timeline you created for yourself at age 20 is bogus.
Whether it’s becoming a homeowner, getting married, starting a family, making a six-figure salary, you have to go at your own pace. Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t achieved a superficial milestone by 40.
Now’s the time to get serious about retirement.
Getting a jump on retirement savings is just about the best piece of practical life advice there is. The longer you have before clocking out for good, the less you’ll have to sock away annually. For example, assuming an annual return of 7% after fees, you’d have $1 million in your retirement fund at age 65 if you saved $4,830 annually starting at the age of 25. If you’ve waited until 40 to save for retirement, you’ll have to stash away more than $15,000 per year to get the same result. It’s gets worse from there so start today.
But don’t despair if you haven’t begun yet
Young folks aren’t exactly psyched to throw their hard-earned cash at a secure dotage. The U.S. government encourages workers 50 and older to save more than younger employees by offering catch-up contributions for retirement plans. It’s a chance for johnny-save-latelies to get back on track to a secure retirement.
One day you’ll be a memory
Combined average lifespan for men and women in the US is just shy of 79 years old. That means is that your 40th birthday signals that you’re statistically halfway through this crazy thing called life. So now is a good time to spare some thought for your legacy. We’re not talking about your estate, or your kids, but how people will remember you.
Think about being an invisible presence at your own wake. What do you want to hear people say? Your 40s is the decade to start creating a sentiment you’d be happy with. The remainder of your life will be all the better for it. Ready to embrace your golden years? Here’s 40 Things You Should Do in Your 40s.