While turning 40 may feel like a major milestone to some—a catalyst that finally propels you to conquer that marathon, ditch that toxic relationship, or finally make a big career move—for others, it just means more of the same mistakes to look forward to. “Forty is a time when most people have settled into their careers and families, when things have been stable for a while,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Inna Khazan, Ph.D.
And while, for many, finally getting some of the pieces of the puzzle together means newfound contentment, for others still, it can bring on a serious reassessment of priorities. “For some people, stability may trigger concerns of whether their lives are going the way they had always hoped.” So, before you enter a new decade with the baggage from the previous one, make sure you’re not guilty of these 40 common mistakes no woman over 40 should make. And for more ways to make this your best decade yet, here are the 40 Genius Ways to Simplify Your Life After 40.
Sure, it may feel good to have people like you, but those people-pleasing behaviors come at no small cost to you. If you’re constantly overextending yourself or making things harder to please others, you’re sure to find yourself exhausted in the long run. “While it is okay to do things for other people, don’t forget to think about what is in your best interest as well,” recommends Dr. Khazan. And for more ways to own your 40s, learn the 40 Things You Should Never Feel After 40.
While the occasional glass of wine probably won’t do any catastrophic damage to your health, if you’re drinking frequently over 40, you could be staring danger in the face. In fact, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, regular alcohol consumption can significantly increase your risk of breast, colon, liver, and esophageal cancers. And if you’re concerned about how often your drink, Here’s What Your Drinking Habits Say About Your Health.
Your career may be reaching its apex in your 40s, but if you put it above all else in your life, you’re making a mistake. Neglecting relationships, your health, or your non-work goals in favor of a skyrocketing career will come back to haunt you—according to a study conducted at the University of Illinois, Champaign, work regrets made up for 22 percent of the regrets among people polled, so there’s no better time to work toward that ever-elusive work-life balance. And if you need help in that department, learn The 50 Top Secrets of a Perfect Work-Life Balance.
It may feel good to hold onto a grudge, but doing so is ultimately a mistake in the long run. After all, the person against whom you’re holding that grudge gets to live their life blissfully unaware of your anger, while you have to hold onto that misery, often at the expense of your overall wellbeing.
According to researchers at the University of Waterloo, women are more frequent apologizers than their male counterparts. However, if you’re over 40 and are still apologizing like it’s your job—even for things that aren’t your fault—you’re sure to find yourself exhausted soon. To combat this behavior, try taking a new approach: “Instead, try saying thank you—when you are late, say thank you for waiting rather than sorry for being late,” suggests Dr. Khazan.
While teenagers and 20-somethings today may have never had to live in a world without social media, many adults in their 40s are still just getting the hang of the ever-evolving social media platforms via which we share our information. Unfortunately, this can lead to some seriously unsafe behavior online, whether that’s putting too much personal information on your profile, friending scammers, or badmouthing your employer on a not-so-locked-down profile. When in doubt, treat your social media accounts like a banner hung outside your house: even if you aren’t expecting company, assume that anyone and everyone who wants to can still see it. And for more insight into our widespread social media use, learn the 30 Lies Everyone Tells on Social Media.
American household debt is at an all-time high, with the average family owing more than $100,000 in 2018. However, if you hit your 40s and are still letting those numbers climb, you’re in for a rude awakening. Before you take out a loan on a new car, decide to upgrade your house to some place bigger, try paying off those balances instead, or you risk burdening your loved ones; while some debt is forgiven upon death, data from Experian’s File One Database reveals that the average American will die $62,000 in debt.
Getting married can be a wonderful thing—if you’re doing it for the right reasons, that is. If you find yourself entering your 40s as a single woman, don’t sweat it—and definitely don’t start a mad dash to find someone to walk down the aisle with. In the long run, you’ll regret sharing your home and finances with someone you don’t care for much more than you regret being single for a little while longer. For more reasons to enjoy your untethered time, check out the 40 Reasons Why Being Single in Your 40s is the Greatest Thing Ever.
Sure, it may seem like no big deal to put off that workout for another day, but by the time you’re in your 40s, those missed opportunities to move your body definitely add up. In addition to the extra pounds you might be wearing if you choose to forgo a regular workout, research suggests that a lack of exercise can increase your risk of everything from cancer to fatty liver disease, so there’s no time like the present to start hitting the gym.
Is takeout convenient? Undeniably. Is it also contributing to your poor health? Highly likely. Not only do we unwittingly consume additional calories when we opt for food someone else prepared, researchers at Newcastle University have found that those who frequently ate home-cooked meals consumed more fruits and vegetables and were less likely to become overweight than those who relied on takeout meals.
Just because you get a lovely natural tan every time you go out in sunny weather doesn’t mean you should skip the sunscreen, especially if you’re over 40. Not only are rates of melanoma at an all-time high, every time you’re getting “a little color,” you’re actually doing irreparable damage to your skin, so it’s high time you make applying sunscreen as integral a part of your routine as brushing your teeth.
No matter your age, it’s always important to find time to have a social life, but it’s essential when you’re over 40. Having an active social life is associated with a lower risk of dementia later in life, so there’s no time like the present to schedule a weekly date with your friends. And for more ways to make the most of the decade, learn the 40 Ways to Make New Friends in Your 40s.
It may be comfortable, but all that time spent doing little more than tapping away on your keyboard is a major mistake you can’t afford to keep making, especially since a sedentary lifestyle has been linked to everything from obesity to colon cancer. If you want to enjoy a longer, healthier life, opt for a standing desk, get an under-desk elliptical or treadmill, or at least make an effort to take a lap around your office every hour or so.
If you want to be happier, healthier, and more productive, it’s time to give up the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead mentality.” Sleep deprivation can not only slow your metabolism, make you irritable, and promote anxiety, it’s also a major factor in a huge percentage of car accidents, so there’s no time like the present to start logging a full eight hours at night.
Want more to talk about at dinner parties? Want a hobby that’s not binging old episodes of Law and Order: SVU? It’s time to stop letting your book collection gather dust. Better yet, research conducted at the University of Pittsburgh reveals that reading is associated with a lower risk of dementia later in life. So, who’s up for a little Dostoevsky?
More than two million people are injured and nearly 33,000 die in car crashes in the United States each year. By the time you’re 40, there’s no excuse to not use your turn signal, indulge your road rage tendencies, or, even worse, get behind the wheel after a few drinks.
According to Bankrate.com, a shocking 20 percent of Americans don’t save any money at all, while 76 percent save under 15 percent of their income. If you’re over 40, this isn’t a mistake you can keep making—just because you haven’t been hitting your savings goals up to this point doesn’t mean you can’t start now. In fact, even if you don’t start saving until age 40, make just $40,000 per year, and only expect a two percent rate of return until you retire at 68, you’ll still have an additional $151,169 saved if you start saving now.
Loneliness is never a good feeling, but wasting your time on people who don’t add value to your life won’t make you happier in the long run. Before you find yourself having to break off a relationship you didn’t want in the first place, make sure you’re dating someone for the right reasons, like a desire to be with them, not just a desire to not be alone.
The same goes for friends who are bringing you down: if you feel like your relationship with someone is nothing more than a drain, it’s time to move on. “Life is too short to spend time with people that don’t treat you well and don’t bring anything positive to your life,” says Dr. Khazan.
While it may feel like everyone around you has a nuclear family, if you’re unsure about whether or not you want kids in the first place, it’s an undeniable mistake to have them just to keep up with the Joneses. There are plenty of ways to find fulfillment in life without making a taxing (both physically and financially) 18-plus-year commitment to caring for someone.
Can you have it all as a woman in your 40s? Absolutely. Does that necessarily mean you’ll have it all at once? Maybe not. Instead of wasting your time thinking about all the things you don’t have, focus on the good; even if you don’t have a picture-perfect family, amazing career, and a brand new BMW parked in your driveway, that doesn’t mean you can’t have that all in the future–or that there isn’t a different definition of success that will make you feel just as happy.
There’s no denying that we live in an image-focused society. That said, spending too much time caring about your appearance is unlikely to yield positive results—it’ll just make you feel bad about yourself. So, go ahead, get dressed up, do your makeup and hair if you feel like it. Or don’t—just don’t get down on yourself because you don’t look like a supermodel every day.
While you may find yourself fondly reminiscing about that volleyball tournament your team won or that 10,000-piece puzzle you and your friends completed, few people feel the same warm, fuzzy feelings when reflecting about those long hours logged at work. If you want to make yourself happier, healthier, and more interesting, it’s high time you committed again to those hobbies that used to make you happy.
It’s easy to lose sight of those goals you had at 20 by the time you’re in your 40s. That said, it’s never too late to start working on them again: at 40-something, you’ve still got plenty of time to change careers, buy that dream house, start a family, or get together a healthy retirement fund, if you’re motivated.
You only get one life to live, and only so much time to spend with your family. If you don’t want to look back with regret 20 years from now, it’s time to start seeing those members of your family who you love—you never know how many more years you’ll have to enjoy their company.
Trying to live up to other people’s expectations is only going to let both you and the people you’re performing for down. By the time you hit 40, it’s time to let the world see the real you, warts and all. “Present yourself in an authentic way and connect with others the way you are,” says Dr. Khazan. “Don’t waste time pretending.”
Even if it’s been decades since you last set foot in a classroom, if you’re interested in getting your GED, a bachelor’s degree, or go to grad school, now is the perfect time to start. In fact, considering that research finds that education is the number one source of regret for many people, there’s no better time to start cracking open those textbooks again.
Sure, you could theoretically skip flossing without any immediate adverse effects, but make no mistake: your choice to do so will come to haunt you eventually. Unless you’re eager to join the ranks of the 178 million Americans missing at least one tooth, it’s time to start taking your oral hygiene routine seriously.
Travel gives us an amazing sense of perspective about the world we’d never get to enjoy if you never get out of your hometown. Even if you don’t have the money to jet off to Europe every year, simply traveling to another state or town can broaden your horizons, and may even boost your creativity.
Just because, on the surface, your life doesn’t seem as successful as those of some of your friends doesn’t mean you’re somehow falling behind. When you compare yourself to others, you’ll always find a way to make your life come up short, so go ahead and start recognizing all of your accomplishments rather than cataloging a list of shortcomings.
Going to the doctor may not be a picnic, but if you want to enjoy another 40 years in good health, it’s important to check in on a regular basis. Not only can regular medical exams keep you on the right track when you’re working on your health goals, doing so can help you stop more serious illness in its tracks.
If you want to make the most of your 40s, it’s not all about saying yes to every experience that comes your way. In fact, saying no can be an equally powerful tool—whether that means saying no to social occasions you’re not feeling up for or turning down work that’s going to take up your whole weekend—and one that allows you to make enough time for the things you’re passionate about.
With career, family, hobbies, and friends to think about, the self often comes last on the list of priorities. That said, there’s never a bad time to start prioritizing self-care. “Give yourself permission to take care of yourself and your health,” says Dr. Khazan. “You’ll notice that you feel better and are more efficient and able to take better care of others when you take better care of yourself.”
Life moves fast enough as it is. If you want to make the most of the next forty years, it’s time to start appreciating the small things in life, even if it means taking a break from your usual non-stop pace.
It’s easy to get complacent when you’ve hit a point where your life is pretty comfortable. However, if you want to truly enjoy your 40s and the decades that follow, it’s time to grab ahold of those old ambitions and refuse to let go. Just because you’re well into your career at this point doesn’t mean you can’t keep climbing.
The bulk of Americans leave some of their vacation days on the table, but doing so is always a mistake. If you work for a company that truly values you, they won’t penalize you for taking advantage of a benefit they offered you in the first place, and, in the long run, you’ll remember those days you spent lounging on a beach way more than you do those days spent in your cubicle.
While there’s no age limit on finding the right person, if you’re playing relationship games, you’re definitely making a big mistake. If you’re doing “things like ‘I can’t call you for three days after I see you,’ or ‘I can’t let you know that I like you not to seem desperate,’ you might miss out on a meaningful relationship,” says Dr. Khazan.
Good friends are few and far between, especially as you get older. If you find someone you really connect with, don’t let your relationship fizzle out just because you’re too busy. Like any relationship, friendships take work and time, and good friends deserve plenty of both.
Nobody looks back on their death bed and says, “I wish I had done less good in the world.” If there’s a cause you’re passionate about, it’s time to start making time for it in your life—you’ll never know how much a cause means to you until you’re actively involved, after all.
By the time you’re in your 40s, you definitely know better than to indulge those vices coming between you and a better life. So, if you want to make the next decades your best ones yet, it’s time to put down the smokes, get your spending in check, and make sure you’re playing things safe, both emotionally and physically, in your relationships. In fact, cutting those vices out now might just ensure you another 40 happy, healthy years to look forward to.
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