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40 Simple Pleasures Only People Over 40 Can Appreciate

These life experiences big and small will make you glad to be in your 40s and beyond.

Sure, hitting a new decade milestone can be scary: It's uncharted territory after all. But reaching the big 4-0 doesn't have to be a hurdle to dread—far from it. In fact, at age 40 and above, we might be in the position to live our best lives yet: We're more self aware, less insecure, and we're not afraid to say no (or yes, when it serves us). And hey, we might even still get carded from time to time! Embrace this decade—and far beyond—as you consider these 40 simple pleasures only people over 40 can truly appreciate.

Spending time alone

middle age woman spending time alone in kitchen

If you felt a need in your 20s and 30s to surround yourself with people and parties—just to keep from facing your own thoughts—reaching 40 might bring a sense of relief to get off that social treadmill and enjoy solo time. "When you are younger, there is a push for spending as much time with as many people as possible. Even your self-esteem and worthiness may be dependent on the body count, and being a 'loser' is counted by how much time you spend by yourself," says life coach Judith Rapley, LCSW. "Beautiful is the day when you discover this may be the opposite. You realize that it's quality over quantity."

Finding cute reading glasses at a bargain

woman tilting her glasses down

Look, surpassing 40 might mean ever more compromised vision. But the flip side of that is… getting a chance to discover cute reading glasses—even in unlikely places like the drug store—and snatching them up as an impulse buy. "If you have to wear them, you can at least be cute and fly about it!" Rapley says.

Seeing your parents in yourself

father and son laughing

Whether or not you have kids of your own at 40-plus, you may find yourself in the gratifying—and illuminating—position of understanding your own parents more fully and compassionately. "When you see your parents simply as flawed but phenomenal human beings … you begin to be more curious [and] open to their story and the parts that you are not central to," Rapley explains. "From there, you can take the baton from them and continue the rest of your healing on your own journey."

Having more questions than answers

man thinking

If younger decades meant desperately searching for the one right way to be, reaching 40 can bring satisfaction through the acceptance that the world is not binary. Questions will remain unanswered and unanswerable, and that's OK! Rapley appreciates that being over 40 means "having more questions about life as you get older than answers and being OK with that," and that, in fact, it's the questions themselves that contain the "essence of life and discovery."

Recognizing that issues you once thought were critical might not even matter

man shrugging bw

When you reach 40, you may have an epiphany that some things you once thought were critical—and perhaps even matters of life or death—really don't matter much at all. "Priorities and focus become crucial for most people at this age," Rapley says. "If you are maturing and working on transforming yourself … you begin to disengage from other people's drama and perhaps even your own."

Getting carded—still

man getting carded at the store

Here's the evolution of what it feels like to get carded: When you're 20, you're panicked. (I can't believe they asked!) When you're 22, you're relieved. (Yes, I'm old enough, and here's proof!) And when you're over 40, you're downright smug. (Oh, you think I might not yet be 21? Hey, I've still got it!)

Watching The Golden Girls in a new light

two women watching tv on couch

The classic '80s sitcom The Golden Girls has always been pure comedy genius—something you could appreciate even if you were coming of age when it was originally airing. But watching those reruns at 40-plus? Well, after you've traveled down your own road and back again, that's when you can actually relate to the humor in the girls' lifestyles. Now, pass the cheesecake.

Trusting the process

middle age man relaxing

By the time you reach 40, you have enough hard-won experience to know that things have a way of working themselves out in their own time—even if you're not sure why they're happening, or when and how they'll end. "When I was younger I was in such a rush for everything to work out on the first try," says life coach Betsy Rosenfeld Vargas of Betsy Coaching & Consulting. "If something didn't hit right out of the gate, I was on to the next thing. Now that I'm over 40, I realize that many of the best things that have come my way did so only after things I so thought I wanted didn't work out exactly how I expected them to. Making room to be more patient has made my life a lot more enjoyable."

The joy of missing out

middle age woman being zen

Rather than fear missing what other people are doing, at 40 you might find that you are entirely happy to just do whatever makes you feel comfortable and relaxed—without the need to follow the crowd. "I no longer push myself to do anything out of a fear of missing out," Rosenfeld Vargas says. "Instead, I check in with myself, asking, 'Am I choosing to do this out of fear, or is it something I truly want?' With this, I am able to feel good about my choices, no matter what comes."

Saying no

middle age man gesturing no

When you reach 40, you find not so much anxiety as distinct satisfaction in saying no unapologetically. "Since hitting 40, my FOMO is basically NOMO," says Rosenfeld Vargas. "I have had enough amazing experiences as well as enough not-so-amazing ones to know that there are more of each coming my way."

Saying yes

couple dancing in kitchen

On the flip side, you might find that life over 40 means saying yes to a whole new slate of experiences you were once too apprehensive to attempt: Maybe it's trying salsa dancing without fear of embarrassment, or traveling to a new place across the globe—because who cares… and why not?

Going to bed early

asian man sleeping

If your younger years felt like a competition to see who could stay out the latest—as some kind of cool-kid badge of honor—hitting 40 means squarely letting go of that sense of duty to the party gods. And it can mean that dropping into bed early feels like the most indulgent reward of them all.

Waking up early

middle age woman waking up

Similarly, when you've gone to bed early, you might wake up early, feeling fully rested and ready to take on the day. And getting up early can bring many inherent pleasures, like catching a gorgeous sunrise, or spending indulgent meditative time alone with a warm beverage in a quiet house.


middle age asian woman standing in front of her pastries

Who says you're ever too old to try new things? In fact, your 40s can be an ideal time to make a major shift. "Midlife is the very best time to start a new chapter. This is the perfect time to take your decades of accomplishments, all your skill sets and passions, and co-mingle them in new and interesting ways," says transitional life strategist Randi Levin of Randi Levin Coaching. "Becoming an entrepreneur, starting a side hustle, founding a nonprofit, mentoring, and consulting are brilliant and exciting ways to take what makes you special and thread it forward."

And seeing obstacles as opportunities

middle age couple walking their dog

When you're over 40, you might be in a better position to see the potential for opportunity to emerge out of even very painful life events. "Personal transitions such as divorce, down-sizing, empty-nesting are all life-cycle events that impact and fuel change and renewal in your life," Levin says.

Being part of something bigger than you are

middle age woman mentoring teenagers

Past 40, you might have more perspective on the world outside yourself—and more inclination to act in ways that are selfless and generous. "Parenting, founding businesses, serving on boards, spearheading non-profits are experiences that fulfill like no other," Levin says. "In your post-40 years, collaboration, connection, and making a difference ignite in a significant way."

Parenting older children

mother and daughter cooking

As you get older, you may find yourself in the position of parenting children old enough to display their own unique character traits—so it's clear they'll blossom into upstanding, self-sustaining grownups. That's a "game changer," says Levin. "It's also the ultimate personal success story. You created them. You nurtured them. You led them. It is a very special time to be proud of yourself!"

Spending quality time with loved ones without planned activities

mother and daughter smiling outdoors

When you're younger, getting together with friends can mean making a boatload of planned activities—so the aspect of meaningful connection is merely an afterthought. Hitting 40 allows for a new perspective on time together with loved ones. "As we age and gain more wisdom, we can begin to appreciate what really matters to us that may not have occurred to us in the frenetic days of youth: the quality of our relationships and time left to enjoy it," says transformation coach Malena Crawford. "We now know that life is truly short, and it's the simplest ways we enjoy the ones we love that fill us with happiness."

Making a career move

middle age white woman working her desk job

Who says you need to be anywhere in particular in your career at this stage? These days, being 40-plus can mean anything you want it to mean at work—and it can be the most empowering time to advance or to make a change. "A new day is here, and for those who dare to defy the old standard and chart a new path in their 40s and beyond, the payoff can be exhilarating," Crawford says.

Taking risks in general

middle age woman writing down notes

Risk-taking takes on an all new significance when you pass 40: Instead of merely making an impulsive move, it can mean a calculated chance to break out of a rut and try for something bigger. "Taking calculated risks is a great way to pull us out from the status quo and remind us that the zeal of life is something that's always within our grasp," Crawford says. "Taking a risk also allows us to get reintroduced to ourselves in an incredible, life-affirming way."

Figuring out that social media lies

middle age woman teaching her mom social media

Deep down, most users of social media know that it doesn't represent reality. But when we're younger, we can more easily fall prey to comparing our own worst days to our peers' carefully curated highlight reels. When we reach 40, we're less prone to fall into that dangerous trap—and we're emotionally much healthier for it.

Letting go—and not looking back

middle age woman smiling

After 40, you may be better prepared to simply let go of the relics of the past that don't serve you, and only hold you back. "There's something that hits you in your 40s that gives you the freedom, the permission, the confidence, to say buh-bye to what is no longer serving you," says Robyn Miller Brecker, head of content for the gratitude app gthx and founder of Seeking With Robyn. "Whether it's a toxic friend, an expectation that you thought you had to fulfill, fear—the list can go on and on… You realize you have a choice!"

Being an "old married" type

middle age couple looking at tablet

At this age, you may not be in the honeymoon phase anymore in your marriage—far from it. You might be a decade or more into this thing… and you know that's where so much of the beauty lies. You've built a life together, a home, maybe with children. You finish each other's sentences. You might bicker, but you know you don't mean it. You're confident this is forever, and that's an incredible feeling.

Choosing to go gray gracefully—or not

middle age woman with gray hair

Yes, you may be graying at 40—and you can choose to color your hair, or to embrace it. Either way, you define and own your look! "Some women look stunning going gray, and I especially love those chic gray streaks in a brunette's mane," says life coach Hope McGrath. But if that's not you, that's cool, too: "There are countless women, and billions of dollars made from the beauty industry, to support us in maintaining our youthful glow."

Recommitting to health, for new reasons

middle age woman exercising

If you thought "health" meant simply "losing weight" in your earlier years, by 40 you know it's really about something entirely different. And you might be taking this time to recommit to your body for reasons more about longevity and overall wellness than trying to look hot to anyone else. "As we age, we get tired. No one is spared unless you've made a lifelong commitment to yourself," McGrath says. "Revamping your health and wellness requires way more extra work and commitment to get your energy and body back. Just do it!"

Really knowing yourself

middle age man doing woodwork

As we age, we simply get to know ourselves and our own needs better. "For those 40-somethings who are self aware, by now we know our strengths and weaknesses," McGrath says. "We've experienced the roller coaster of life, and we know that living our lives based on what other people think is a recipe for disaster and misery. We all tend to care less. We are more outspoken, a bit more fearless in our approach to living life on our own terms."

Living authentically

asian farmer attending his crops

When you truly know yourself, you can behave fearlessly—and completely on your own terms. "When I hit my 40s, I joked around saying that I feel like my beloved grandmother, who said whatever she wanted and didn't care what people thought," McGrath says. "There was such freedom in her authenticity. Even though some got mad, she really could've cared less. This sense of authenticity really begins to blossom in your 40s."

Living out your legacy

man working from home

If earlier years had you confused about your true calling, reaching 40 might bring a satisfying clarity about your life's larger mission—and the inclination to behave accordingly. In earlier decades, the concept of "your legacy seems far away, what you leave behind for others to remember you by," Levin says. "Hitting midlife shifts perspectives. Legacy is not what is memorable about you when you are gone; instead, it is what is memorable about you right now. Experiencing your legacy means that you are saying yes to choice and change, and that you are using the sizzle reel of your life to date as the foundation for empowering what is next."

Appreciating the precious and fleeting nature of time

middle age man traveling off-road

When you get to be 40, you know that time is not infinite. And while connecting with your mortality can be scary, it can be incredibly empowering, too. "We know time is precious, and we have such a finite number of hours in the day, we must spend it wisely on productivity and people who love us, inspire us, or uplift us," McGrath says. "There is no time to waste at all. Living our best lives involves us watching the clock. Forty-somethings know mastering the fine balance in life is the key to embodying more fulfillment."

Dispensing with gratuitous people pleasing

a group of women laughing together

You still want to please the loved ones that truly matter after 40. Beyond that, though? You're over it. "We know the importance of self-love and having joy in our own lives, rather than kissing up to people who have no true interest in our well-being or seeing us thrive," McGrath says. "We consider our happiness quotient more when making big decisions in our 40s."

Knowing what you want in a relationship

middle age interracial couple embracing

Hitting 40 brings with it a wealth of experience, likely including enough experience with relationships that you can embrace what you need and want—and feel empowered to reject what you don't. "Whether you're dating or married, you're more comfortable with who you are and what you want out of love. No more guessing games or trying to fit someone else's mold," says dating and relationship coach Carla Romo. "You've been hurt and stood back up again. This may have once been painful, but now you have wisdom when it comes to love. You can now help share it with your children or a 20-something-year-old co-worker."

And letting go of toxic relationships

couple arguing in the kitchen

By the time you reach 40, you might have endured your share of toxic friendships—people who always acted like the victim while sucking all the air out of the room. "In your 40s, you've had enough," says Katharine Holmes of Katie Holmes Coaching. "You've found the courage to let go of these relationships—not because you're not a caring person, but because you must protect your own emotional and mental well-being. You no longer tell yourself that you should be friends with these people. It is not your responsibility to fix or save them. How freeing is that?"

Knowing you can trust your instincts

middle age man presenting his work at his job

When you're over 40, you have enough experience and intuition combined to be able to truly trust your own instincts, and that's powerful. "In our 20s and 30s, we struggle with trusting our gut instincts. Rather than doing the things we actually want to do, we hold back," Holmes says. "By their 40s, most people pay less attention to what they think they should do, and focus on what their heart tells them is right. This is the quickest route to their happiest life."

Setting boundaries

middle age caucasian woman doing yoga

You may have left behind some of your earlier insecurities by this age, and you feel more comfortable speaking up for what you want and what you simply won't tolerate. "Many of us feel pretty insecure in our 20s and 30s. We so badly want to be liked that we'll let people walk all over us. We'll mute our opinions and ideas for fear of rejection," Holmes says. "In our 40s, we know our value. We feel comfortable setting boundaries and letting people know when they've stepped over them.

Appreciating your reckless past

middle age man looking at a photo

Isn't it great to be able to look back on all the risks we took in our younger years—secure in the knowledge that we turned out just fine? It's bliss to recall the memories of our wilder younger days, knowing we got all that out of our systems, survived it, and lived to tell those juicy tales!

And embracing the mistakes of your 20s and 30s

middle age couple reminiscing old photos

If you found your 20s and 30s to be rough, you weren't alone. "We're figuring out who we are—and making lots of mistakes along the way. You stayed too long in that job you hated. You forgave that boyfriend one too many times when you should have dumped him. You spent money on things that weren't worth it," Holmes says. But the good news is that at this point, "we have learned and grown from these challenges. We know we won't make these mistakes again. In fact, we can embrace these mistakes because they've made us into a stronger, wiser version of ourselves."

Letting texts, emails, and phone calls wait

father son bonding through a book

If being younger means being hopelessly tethered to our phones, aging to 40 and beyond can bring the freeing experience of letting some of that go—or at least, letting it wait. After 40, you might feel content to simply "ignore texts, email, social media, a phone ringing, until you're ready and feel like it," says development and career coach Rebecca Kiki Weingarten. "It will wait, really."

Letting go of "should"

middle age woman graduating from university

"Should" can be a dangerous word in our 20s and 30s—it can drive you to pursue all kinds of goals you don't actually care about, but seem appropriate somehow. "Letting go of the 'shoulda' that drove you until now" can be very empowering at 40-plus, Weingarten says. "What do you want? What's right for you? That's what can drive you now with the confidence of your self-knowledge and life experience."

Not taking criticism personally

middle age man is criticized by his boss

At 40, you know yourself—flaws and all—and you really wouldn't want to trade with anyone else. "Your mother-in-law's judgmental criticisms used to keep you up at night, but no more," Weingarten says. "You used to replay the snide remarks from your work colleague over and over in your mind. Now you let them go because you value your opinion more than anyone else's."

And knowing that the big 4-0 is better than you could've imagined

happy middle age man with glasses

If you long dreaded the experience of turning 40, you were delighted to discover that actually being 40 means you no longer have to anticipate the milestone birthday with anxiety. Plus, after you're on the other side, you know it's not so bad. In fact, it just might be the greatest era yet. "Turning 40 is great for so many reasons, not the least of which is that you don't have the anxiety and dread about turning 40," says Weingarten. "And, wait for it: It's better than you imagined it would be!"

Additional reporting by Alex Daniel.

Alesandra Dubin
Alesandra Dubin is a lifestyle editor and writer based in Los Angeles. Read more