The 40 Best New Year's Resolutions for People Over 40
Ditch the New Year's resolutions of your youth for these bolder choices to make your 2020 great.
Making New Year's resolutions is always worthwhile: 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 one-size-fits-all approach to resolutions, and the things you committed to doing when you were in your 20s and 30s can look vastly different from what you'd like to accomplish in your 40s and beyond. 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've put together some helpful suggestions on how you can change yourself for the better this year. Time passes quickly, but you can accomplish a lot in 12 months. And there's no time like a new year to get started.
Take an improv class.
Learning to improvise is not about becoming the next Tina Fey or Stephen Colbert. It helps strengthen your social skills and increase your confidence. There was even a 2016 study published in the journal Parkinsonism & Related Disorders that showed improv can help mitigate the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
Try only spending cash at least one day per month.
Credit cards give us a lot of freedom, but they also make it too easy to spend recklessly. Try only using cash at least one day 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.
Make your coffee at home.
According to a 2018 MarketWatch survey, 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. As you get older, setting money aside for retirement should be even more important than the most delicious Americano.
Bake something from scratch.
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 a 2016 study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, spending time in the kitchen trying to create something wonderful can actually boost your mood. As an added bonus, nothing tastes as delicious as something you made with your own two hands.
Ask your parents to tell you stories about their lives.
If you're lucky enough 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.
Call someone even when it's easier to text.
Those of us in our 40s 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—even when a text would be faster.
Take your most addictive apps off your phone's home screen.
What's your biggest time-killing app? Maybe it's a game. Maybe it's Facebook. 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.
Post more unfiltered photos on social media.
You already know that being over 40 is beautiful, so don't try to hide it from the outside world with a heavy filter. In 2020, post more photos of yourself as you really are, without the photo retouching tricks that you might be leaning on. Wear your wrinkles and graying hair with pride.
And cut down on your social media habit.
While you're at it, maybe you could use a step back overall. We mostly think of social media addiction as a young person's problem, but it can be just as challenging for people over 40. A 2018 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.
Or ditch your phone entirely and try people-watching instead.
Too many of us wander through life staring at our phones. See if you can make the commitment in 2020 to put down your phone, as addictive as it can be, and quietly watch the people around you for a few minutes. You'd be surprised at how much you can learn about life just from watching strangers.
Use sunscreen every day.
If you're only using sunscreen at the beach or in the summer, you need to up your SPF game in 2020. A 2014 study from the Mayo Clinic showed 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.
Write down one thing every day that you're thankful for.
Each day can feel like an endless list of commitments, emails, responsibilities, and stress. For your mental health, try a short exercise before bed: Write down one thing from your day 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.
Eat at least one plant-based meal every day.
Here's a nutritional challenge for 2020: Devote at least one meal a day entirely to plant-based foods. You don't need to drastically change your entire diet, but your body will thank you for your efforts.
And eat more fruit.
If you can't remember the last time you had a banana or a bowl of grapes, don't let 2020 become another fruit-free year. There's some truth to that "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" maxim.
Drink more water.
It's not just about staying hydrated! There's been ample research—including a 2011 study in Nutritional Reviews—that drinking water can help with your energy levels, and that it encourages weight loss.
Get a new stamp on your passport.
There are few things sadder than a passport gathering dust in a file cabinet. Make a plan to take yours out next year, and explore some part of the world you've never seen before.
Take more weekend micro-vacations.
A 2018 Booking.com survey found that more than half of travelers planned on taking shorter weekend trips throughout the year, a popular new trend called micro-vacations. Rather than limiting their time off to one massive vacation, they're trying to squeeze in smaller bite-sized trips. It's perfect for the busy 40-something who wants to see more of the world but can't seem to find the time.
Say no more often.
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 2012 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 could be negotiable.
This may not sound like good advice, especially if you're ambitious. But working harder doesn't always mean working smarter. According to Japanese researchers, employees over the age of 40 are at their sharpest mentally when they work just three days a week. If that's not a possibility in your current career, slowing down your work schedule even a little can have huge benefits.
And take more time off.
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging found that even with healthy habits like a nutritious diet and exercise, middle-aged men who took fewer 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!
Try exercising outside.
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 2010 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 feel like exercise.
Use the stairs more often.
Speaking of exercise, if you're faced with the choice of a set of stairs or an escalator—and you're physically able—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.
Switch up your routine.
The middle-aged brain can get stagnant when it becomes a slave to routine. Try mixing it up by eating your meals at varying hours, taking a new route to the office, or even exercising at a different time of day. Your brain will sharpen if you teach it not to expect business as usual.
Be less argumentative.
Getting into petty arguments with people, whether they're a partner, a co-worker, or a stranger online, is a waste of time. For 2020, make an effort to do more listening than arguing (even when you know in your heart that you're right).
And be kinder overall.
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.
Try to be less selfish.
You don't need to become a saint overnight. Just make a small effort every day to put other people first. It turns out there's actually a selfish reason to be less selfish: A 2018 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people who are less selfish tend to make more money than those who always think of themselves before anyone else.
But also remember that sometimes you need to be selfish.
If you're only thinking about the happiness and comfort of other people, you're not taking care of yourself. It's OK to be selfish occasionally: It's about making sure your emotional and physical needs are being met. Take the time in 2020 to check in with yourself, and make sure you're getting what you need from life.
Spend more time with friends.
There are endless excuses for avoiding social engagements, especially in our 40s and beyond. Between work and parenting responsbilities, 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 2015 study in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science found that loneliness increases the risk of death by up to 32 percent.
Visit a family member you've fallen out of touch with.
Even if you make an effort to see your immediate family a few times 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.
Get more sleep.
Sleep is incredibly important, and there's plenty of science to back that up. Even if you're not able to get a full eight hours, find ways to get some extra shut-eye in 2020.
Learn a new skill.
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? Believe it or not, you can find the time, and it's worth doing not just for bragging rights but for your cognitive health, too. A study by the Association for Psychological Science found that doing something "unfamiliar and mentally challenging" can help strengthen your brain and improve your long-term memory. Consider it a workout regimen for your mind.
Pick up a hobby.
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 2020 your healthiest year yet.
According to The New York Times, 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.
Declutter your life.
This could mean anything from finally going through all those mystery boxes in your attic to making some hard choices about the beloved but tattered sweatshirts taking up space in your closet. After more than 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.
Cut down on the booze.
You don't need to eliminate alcohol entirely to stay healthy in your 40s and beyond. A 2018 University of California study even found that people who drank two glasses of beer or wine every day were 18 percent less likely to die prematurely than those who don't. But if you find yourself exceeding those quantities, you could be doing real damage to your health.
Read for pleasure.
The vast majority of what you read every day likely has a purpose. Whether it's work emails or news stories, you're reading 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.
And actually finish that book you've been meaning to get through.
We live in a culture of short attention spans, where we want all of our information as quickly as possible. But in 2020, you should remind yourself of the joy of sitting with a big, beefy novel—especially if it's one you've wanted to read for years. Even if it's less than an hour each day, turn off the internet and make a dent in your book of choice.
Stop putting off that doctor's appointment.
Whether it's an annual check-up with your family physician or a dental cleaning you've been avoiding for far too long, let 2020 be the year of no more excuses. Pick up the phone (or hop online) and get an appointment on the books. Even if you don't have any alarming symptoms, you're at an age where you should be staying on top of your health.
Make a date with your partner.
You might think your relationship is in fine shape, and let's hope it is! But like a garden, it needs to be tended. According to a 2017 Pew Research Center study, divorce rates among middle-aged people are on the rise, with divorces among couples aged 50 and older doubling in the past 25 years. Take steps to nurture your marriage now so you don't have to become a statistic.
Stop thinking of yourself as old.
If you consider yourself old at 40 or beyond, it's all in your head. As aging expert Muir Gray told The Telegraph, 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.