Turning 40 can feel like a big deal, and that’s because it is. In fact, it might just be the beginning of your best decade yet. When you reach your 40s, your career is in better shape than it was a decade before, you know what you want from life, and you just might find yourself hitting peak confidence. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that making the most of this amazing period in your life is easy. We’ve rounded up 40 life changes you should make after 40 to make this your best decade yet.
1 | Stop pretending to enjoy things you actually hate.
While it may have felt important to like the same bands, books, or movies as your friends when you were younger, your 40s are the perfect time to stop pretending to care about things that don’t matter to you. You only have so many years to spend on this planet, so why waste them pretending to be someone you’re not? Reinvent yourself in your 40s by becoming who you really are.
2 | And don’t be shy about the things you are into.
3 | Learn a new language.
“A higher level of education is associated with better mental functioning in old age,” notes Harvard Medical School’s blog. And in your 40s, what’s more useful than studying a new language? When you travel, you can use your new linguistics knowledge to communicate and impress the locals.
4 | Become a world traveler.
You’re more likely to have a little extra cash in your 40s than you did in your 20s, so why not spend it exploring the world around you? Whether you’re jetting off to Rome or just driving to a nearby town, travel is a great way to get more enjoyment out of life. In fact, researchers at Cornell University found in a 2014 study that subjects were significantly happier when they had a trip to look forward to.
5 | Use all of your vacation days.
According to 2017 research from Glassdoor reported by MarketWatch, 54 percent of Americans didn’t use all of their vacation days in 2016. However, research suggests that going on vacation can make you happier, healthier, and even more productive when you return to work. If you’re in your 40s, you’ve likely spent close to half your life working, so go ahead and take those benefits offered to you while you can.
6 | Reinvigorate your relationship with some flirting.
It’s easy to let your relationship get stagnant when you’ve been together for a long time. To keep things fresh, make sure you’re still making time to flirt with your partner in your 40s. A little flirtation can go a long way in terms of making your partner feel loved and wanted—and as they say, happy wife, happy life.
7 | Wake up earlier.
While many people tend to naturally wake up earlier as they get older, try to make getting out of bed earlier a priority by the time you hit 40. Waking up earlier affords you some time to hit the gym before it gets too crowded, make yourself a healthy breakfast, or just decompress before the day starts. Better yet, researchers at Northwestern University have linked exposure to early morning sunlight to lower BMIs, so losing a little lounge time in bed could help you lose that spare tire, too.
8 | Find a hobby.
Want to make the most of your 40s? Stop wasting time with TV binges and find a hobby instead. Not only can developing a hobby increase your confidence and expand your social circle, but it may help keep you cognitively fit in the long run. One 2011 study published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias found that adults who partook in their hobbies on a regular basis were less likely to develop dementia in later life than those who abstained.
9 | Read regularly.
Commit more time to reading in your 40s. It’s more than just a fun hobby: A 2013 study published in the journal Neurology found that older individuals who remained avid readers until their deaths reduced memory-related decline by 32 percent.
10 | Manage your finances.
While retirement may still be a way off when you’re in your 40s, getting rid of any debt now can help you secure a more stable financial future. And according to research from PayScale, workers’ earnings tend to be at their peak when people are in their 40s, meaning there’s no better time to pay off your debt. If you get serious about paying off your debt now, you can easily be rid of it entirely by the time retirement rolls around.
11 | Reinvent your finances.
Your 40s are a great time to talk to a financial planner and figure out just what your money goals are over the next 40 years. If you want to buy a house, then you can figure out how much you need to save every month to realistically put down a down payment; if you have kids, then you can figure out how much you need to put away for their college education; and if you want to travel the world once you retire, then you can start to budget for just that.
12 | Be more assertive at work.
Your 40s are the perfect time to become more assertive at work. And research published in 2016 in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology reveals that assertive women are more likely to be considered for raises than their shyer counterparts. You’ve worked your way up the ladder this far, so why not keep going?
13 | Stay out of office drama.
If you plan to retire at 65, you’ve got a lot of working years still ahead of you in your 40s. To make that time more bearable, do your best to steer clear of office drama whenever possible. Ten years from now, you won’t remember (or care) who used up more than their fair share of printer paper.
14 | Don’t stay at a job you hate.
If you’re unhappy with your current work situation, don’t be afraid to start looking for something new—even in your 40s. This will benefit both your mental and physical health: A 2016 survey from Ohio State University found that workers who were less fulfilled in their careers were more likely to have sleep issues and depressive symptoms.
15 | Add weight training to your exercise plan.
By the time you hit 40, it’s time to make regular weight training an integral part of your exercise routine. Not only can increasing your muscle mass make you look leaner, but researchers at Tufts University have found resistance training to be effective at improving balance, potentially preventing a future fall.
16 | Cook more meals at home.
Now that you’re 40, it’s more than likely that you have a family to feed. Therefore, it’s high time that you learn how to cook nutritious homemade meals for them, even if they aren’t all that elaborate. One 2014 study from Johns Hopkins found that people who eat at home six to seven nights a week consumed fewer calories than those who eat out.
17 | Find confidence.
You only have one life to live, so why waste it feeling bad about what you see in the mirror? Your 40s are that sweet spot where you’re smart enough to both treat your body right and accept that perfection isn’t necessarily possible. While you may have a few more fine lines than you did 20 years ago, consider them proof of a life well-lived.
Not sure how to be more confident? In another Best Lifearticle, Miyume McKinley, LCSW, owner of Epiphany Counseling, Consulting & Treatment Services, suggests making “a list of why you love you, and why you should love you.” Once your list is complete, she says you should “remind yourself often” of all the reasons you have for loving yourself.
18 | Stop comparing yourself to others.
It’s hard to feel confident about your looks, finances, relationship, and career 24/7, but by the time you’re in your 40s, you should make a sincere effort to stop comparing yourself to others. By this point in time, your life has, for better or worse, taken a different path than many of your friends or family members, but there’s no use beating yourself up over it. Focus on the things that you’re happy about and proud about instead, and that regretful feeling is sure to fade.
19 | Learn how to move on from your own mistakes.
While that flubbed interview or bad date can feel like an albatross around your neck, you need to forgive yourself for those mistakes by the time you hit 40. When it’s appropriate, atone, and when it’s not, just do your best to move on.
20 | Remove toxic people from your life.
You only have one life to life, so why waste so much of it on people who do nothing to make it better? As family and work commitments increase in your 40s, it’s the perfect time to cut toxic people out of your life for good. Nobody looks back at 50 and thinks, “I wish I had spent more time with people who made me feel terrible about myself.”