40 Best New Year’s Resolutions for People Over 40
Ring in the new year the right way.
Making resolutions for the new year is always worth it. Even if you don’t follow through on all of your promises, starting out the year with a to-do list is at least a push in the right direction. But there’s no such thing as a generic set of resolutions that work for everyone. The things you committed to doing when you were in your 20s and 30s can be vastly different than what you’d like to accomplish in your 40s. The goalposts you set for yourself evolve as you age, as they should.
That’s why, if you’re in your 40s or older, we’d like to make some helpful suggestions for how you can change yourself for the better this year. Time passes quickly, but you can accomplish a lot in 12 months. Nobody understands this more than somebody in the middle of life.
If you’re only using sunscreen at the beach or in the summer, you need to up your SPF game in 2019. A new study shows that skin cancer is on the rise among men and women over 40, a nearly eightfold increase since 1970. Try to apply sunscreen every day, regardless of how cold and dark it is outside.
Those of us in our forties are old enough to remember when people still used a phone as, well, a phone. Why not try to bring back the timeless art of conversation next year? Giving up texting completely isn’t practical, but challenge yourself to occasionally try calling someone when a text would be more convenient.
Learning to improvise is not about becoming the next Tina Fey or Stephen Colbert. It helps to strengthen your social skills and increase your confidence. There’s even been research that improv can help to stave off Parkinson’s disease.
If you don’t regularly make meals in your kitchen in a way that doesn’t involve the microwave, cooking or baking something from scratch can sound hopelessly complicated. But it’s worth the effort. According to recent research, spending time in the kitchen trying to create something wonderful can actually boost your mood. Bonus: nothing tastes as delicious as something you made with your own two hands.
What’s your biggest time killing app? Maybe it’s a game. Maybe it’s some type of social media. If there’s one app that you can never seem to resist, there’s a way to teach yourself some discipline: Purge it from your home screen. Bury it somewhere deep in your phone so you have to actively go searching to find it. It’ll still be there, but it won’t be quite so tempting. If you’re trying to lose weight, you don’t put a chocolate cake front and center in your refrigerator.
Each day can feel like an endless list of commitments and emails and responsibilities and stress. For your mental health, try starting each morning with a short exercise: Just write down one thing that makes you thankful. It doesn’t have to be anything enormously significant—just a person or a thing or a moment you experienced that makes you grateful that you’re alive. The act of remembering that life is wonderful can make a bigger difference than you realize.
Fact: meat is the best. But a diet needs more vegetables, especially when you get up there in years. Here’s a nutritional challenge for 2019: Devote at least one meal a day entirely to veggies. That means lots of naturally colorful foods on your plate. If words like “vine-ripened” or “seasonal” or “sun-dried” are used to describe it, it’s a food that should be in your fridge.
There are few things sadder than a passport gathering dust in a file cabinet. Make a plan to take it out next year and explore some part of the world you’ve never seen before.
Credit cards give a lot of freedom, but they also make it too easy to spend recklessly. Try using cash only once a month. Not only will you be shocked by how much you’ve been mindlessly buying, but it might also affect your spending habits during the rest of the month.
Too many people wander through life staring at their phones. See if you can make the commitment in the new year to put down your phone, as addictive as it can be, and just quietly watch the people around you for a few minutes. You can learn more about life from watching strangers than you’ll ever find online.
It’s hard to say no, especially to the people we love. But it’s important to set boundaries and find the courage to recognize that your needs are just as important as theirs. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that saying “I don’t” is a better approach than saying “I can’t,” as it helps establish that you’re making a personal choice, however difficult it might be, rather than offering an excuse that might be negotiable or debatable.
This may not sound like good advice, especially if you’re ambitious. But working harder doesn’t always mean working smarter. According to a new study out of Japan, employees over the age of 40 are at their sharpest mentally when they work just three days a week. Even if that’s not a possibility in your current career, slowing down your work schedule even a little can have huge benefits.
A recent Booking.com survey found that, in 2019, more than half of travelers plan on taking shorter weekend trips throughout the year, a popular new trend called “micro vacations.” Rather than limiting their vacation time to one big, massive trip, they’re trying to squeeze in smaller bite-sized trips. It’s perfect for the busy 40-year-old who wants to see more of the world but can’t seem to find the time.
The middle-aged brain can get stagnant when it becomes a slave to routine. Try mixing it up by taking a different set of roads to the office, by eating your meals at different hours, or even by exercising at a different time of day. Your brain will sharpen if you teach it not to expect business as usual.
Getting into petty arguments with people, whether they’re a partner, a co-worker, or a stranger online, is a waste of time. A study of nurses found that when they argued with each other over the treatment of a patient, they usually ended up giving that patient subpar care because the majority of their attention was devoted to proving each other wrong. For 2019, make an effort to do more listening than arguing, even when you know in your heart that you’re right.
According to a recent survey, a staggering one in three Americans spent more money last year on designer coffee than they did on investing and saving money. You don’t have to completely abandon your latte habit, but making coffee at home can save you a surprising amount of money. At 40, setting some money aside for the future should be more important than even the most delicious Americano.
If faced with the choice of a set of stairs or an escalator, and you’re only going a few floors up, challenge yourself to take the stairs. It’s small choices like these—even more so than making it to the gym regularly—that will have the biggest effect on your overall health.
We mostly think of social media addiction as a young person’s problem. But it can be just as problematic for people over 40. A new study from Temple University found that middle-aged adults have a “desire to validate accomplishments” by comparing themselves to old high school friends. That can lead to emotional problems like depression and anxiety. Give yourself a break from trying to prove to the world how great your life is and go have a great life.
Gertrude Weaver, who lived to the ripe old age of 116 (and was briefly the world’s oldest living person), once said in an interview that she attributed her long life to “eating sushi and [getting] at least eight hours sleep a night.” We can’t attest to the sushi diet, but there’s plenty of science that agrees with her about sleep. Even if you’re not able to get a full eight hours, you can find ways to get some extra shuteye in 2019. Start by mastering the 11 Doctor-Approved Secrets for Falling Asleep Faster—Tonight.
The vast majority of what you read in an average day likely has a purpose. Whether it’s work emails or news stories, you’re reading them because you’re trying to stay informed. But your brain needs a little pleasure reading, too. Find a few opportunities each week to read something not because it’s part of your job or you think it’ll make you smarter, but just for the sheer enjoyment of it.
There are endless excuses for avoiding social engagements, especially in our 40s. Between our jobs and our kids needing to be shuttled between extracurricular activities, there’s just not much time left. But not taking a break for some face-to-face contact with your pals may be doing more harm in the long run. A study out of Brigham Young University found that loneliness increases the risk of death by up to 32 percent.
If you can’t remember the last time you ate a banana or a big cup of grapes, don’t let 2019 become another fruit-free year. One Swedish study found that middle-aged men who ate large portions of fruit had a significant decrease in their rates of mortality. Apparently, there’s some truth in that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” maxim.
Not only is it the decent thing to do, but being kinder and more compassionate with your fellow humans can have a positive impact on your health. A 2017 study published in Health Psychology Open found that people more prone to acts of kindness, both toward their own friends and family and complete strangers, were generally better at handling high-stress situations, like tense work deadlines and being stuck in traffic.
If you’re the kind of person who hates going to the gym, it might not be the exercise you’re opposed to but the location. A study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found that just five minutes of exercising in nature can have huge mental and physical health advantages. You might even find that when you’re surrounded by trees and chirping birds, it doesn’t even feel like exercise.
The average age for people applying for patents in the U.S. is 47. You’re not too old to reinvent the wheel; you’re the perfect age to create something the world has never seen before.
A new Finnish study found that even with healthy habits like a nutritious diet and exercise, middle-aged men who took less than three weeks of vacation a year had a 37 percent greater chance of dying than those who relaxed for longer. As if you needed another excuse to plan the trip of a lifetime for your 40th.
You don’t need to become a saint overnight. Just make a small effort every day to put other people first. Studies have found that people who are less selfish tend to make more money than those who always think of themselves before everyone else.
If you’re only thinking about the happiness and comfort of other people, you’re not taking care of yourself. It’s okay to be selfish occasionally—it’s called “healthy selfishness,” and it’s about making sure your emotional and physical needs are being met. Take the time in 2019 to check in with yourself and make sure you’re not a second-class citizen in your own world.
Who has the time to teach themselves a new language or learn a new skill, like photography or carpentry, in our already over-scheduled lives? It’s worth doing not just for bragging rights but for your cognitive health, too. Studies have found that doing something “unfamiliar and mentally challenging,” according to researchers, can help strengthen your brain and improve your long-term memory. Consider it a workout regime for your mind.
No activity that brings you joy is ever frivolous. According to several studies, having a hobby can reduce stress, lower your blood pressure, and even make you happier at the office. Whether it’s gardening, bird watching or woodworking, find a hobby that will make 2019 your healthiest year yet.
This could mean anything from finally going through all those mystery boxes in your attic to making some hard choices about the tattered but beloved sweatshirts taking up space in your closet. After 40 trips around the sun, you’ve likely accumulated quite a bit of junk. You’ll be shocked at how cleaning up your space can also clear your mind.
You don’t need to eliminate alcohol entirely to stay healthy in your 40s and beyond. A new University of California study even found that people who drank two glasses of beer or wine every day are 18 percent less likely to die prematurely than those who don’t. But if you find yourself exceeding those quantities, chances are you’re doing real damage to your health.
Even if you make an effort to see your immediate family at least once a year, there’s probably at least one relative that you’ve fallen out of touch with, someone that you remember fondly from your childhood but haven’t seen in decades. Reconnecting with long-lost family members can give you a greater sense of your own heritage, and your family’s roots.
We live in a short-attention-span culture, where we want all of our information as quickly as possible. But in 2019, you should remind yourself of the simple pleasure of sitting with a big, beefy novel; one with a plot that you can get lost in and characters that are complicated. Even if it’s just an hour each day, turn off the internet and rediscover the joy of a good book.
Whether it’s an annual checkup with your family physician or a dental cleaning you’ve been avoiding for years, let 2019 be the year of no more excuses. Pick up the phone and get an appointment in the books. Even if you don’t have any alarming symptoms, you’re at an age where you can’t afford to wait until you don’t have a choice.
You might think your relationship is in fine shape, and it probably is. But like a garden, it needs to be tended. According to recent Pew research, divorce rates among middle-aged people are on the rise, with divorces among couples aged 50 and older doubling in the past 25 years. Fifty may seem like a world away, but it’s closer than you think. Take steps to nurture your marriage now so you never become a statistic.
It’s not just about staying hydrated. Drinking just two glasses of water a day can cut down on the risk factors for coronary heart disease. And there’s been ample research that drinking water can help with your energy levels and that it encourages weight loss.
You already know that being 40 is beautiful, so why are you trying so hard to hide it from the outside world? In 2019, try posting more photos on social media of yourself as you really are, without the filters or photo retouching tricks that mask our true selves. Wear your wrinkles and graying hair with pride. You’re 40, and you’re better than ever.
If you’re lucky to have parents who are still alive, take the time next year to sit down with them and ask more questions. Have them tell you stories, from their earliest memories to what it was really like when they first became parents. We’re all getting older, and those stories will soon disappear if we don’t make the effort to listen to them and write them down.
If you consider yourself old at 40, it’s all in your head. According to aging expert Muir Gray, the aging process starts at about age 30 but “for most people, it shouldn’t become a problem until they are in their 90s.” In other words, if you feel old, that’s because you’re telling yourself that you feel old. Your body doesn’t entirely agree. And for more ways to make the most of your new year, here are 40 Things to Look Forward to If You’re Turning 40 in 2019.
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